July 22, 2015

NTU ArleesThe reviews are in, and they are good! In keeping with the growing trend of juice bars springing up across the country, customers are lining up to sample — and re-sample — the range of choices at Arlee’s Raw Blends.

Opened in April at 246 Nassau Street, the new juice bar is owned by the brother and sister team of Brian Moore and Paula Taylor. Their establishment, with its emphasis on cold-pressed juice and natural and organic ingredients, is special, they maintain.

Their background includes spending summers at their grandparents farm (owned by the family for three generations) in Georgia, and a familiarity and love of fresh produce and healthy eating.

“I’ve always been on the road to health and wellness, and my journey led me here,” explains Ms. Taylor. “The business evolved, and we grew into this. There is a movement toward healthy eating today, and we see that more and more people want to eat healthy.” more

July 15, 2015

Fashion was a passion for Christina DiDonato from the time she was a young girl. The creativity and ingenuity involved in putting together stylish outfits intrigued and inspired her at an early age. more

April 29, 2015
UNIQUELY YOUR OWN: “At Toggle Home, we strive to connect the past to the present by creating heirloom monograms with a modern twist. Our luxury monograms are hand-crafted and fully customizable to reflect each individual’s style and aesthetic.” Kate Johnstone-Butcher, owner and founder of Toggle Home, is shown with her sons Henry (left) and Porter.

UNIQUELY YOUR OWN: “At Toggle Home, we strive to connect the past to the present by creating heirloom monograms with a modern twist. Our luxury monograms are hand-crafted and fully customizable to reflect each individual’s style and aesthetic.” Kate Johnstone-Butcher, owner and founder of Toggle Home, is shown with her sons Henry (left) and Porter.Customers have found the latest addition on Chambers Street to be irresistible! Since its opening on April 10th, Toggle Home Monogramming & Design has already sold out of a number of items, and visitors to the shop are selecting a variety of monograms to personalize clothing, accessories, blankets, and furniture, among other items.

Customers are not only delighted by the extensive choices of monograms but also by the bright and cheerful decor of the shop. With its yellow and white color motif and warm welcoming atmosphere, it invites shoppers to linger and look!

“We offer a specific type of high quality monogramming that can be completely personalized for each customer,” explains founder and owner Kate Johnstone-Butcher. “I will do custom design, and the monograms can be any size, all different colors, and many different designs.”

An interior designer with a distinctive eye for design and detail, Ms. Johnstone-Butcher also offers professional design services for people in their homes. In addition, before the space became available at 12 Chambers Street, she also operated Toggle Home as an online business for several years, as well as providing traveling trunk shows and pop-up stores.

Original Concept

“It was always my hope to have my own place, however,” she notes, “and when this location became available, there was a whirlwind of activity to get ready. I love the aspect of having everything here in one place for people. When you come in the shop, you will see me. I am always here to help customers, and we have new things coming in all the time. This is a destination place for shoppers.”

Monogramming had long been a special interest for her, adds Ms. Johnstone-Butcher. “Growing up on the North Shore of Long Island, I was around lots of monogramming. At that time, it had a special kind of meaning to it — a family heritage, for example, a connection to who you are. It seemed that monogramming had gotten away from that in recent years — it had become more frivolous — and I wanted to get back to that original concept.

“That feeling of connection is why I chose the name Toggle for the store. One meaning of toggle is connection. Our monogram collection includes a nod to the classics with a modern twist and a commitment to tasteful simplicity. I also wanted it to be accessible and affordable for people.”

Customers may bring in their own items for monogramming, she adds, but they will also find a wonderful selection of merchandise in the shop. Items include everything from furniture and custom chandeliers to clothing and accessories to linens, tote bags and table skirts, as well as choices, including sweaters, for children and toddlers.

“We have items from around the world, with many from the U.S.,” reports Ms. Johnstone-Butcher. “Some of the favorites with customers are robes, pajamas and sleep shirts, and blankets, including wonderful cotton “pom-pom” blankets available in 22 different colors. We also have soft cashmere ponchos for women.”

Baseball caps, tote bags, wine bags, and cosmetic cases are in demand for monograms, as are neckties, and even Wellington boots! The selection of 100 percent linen hand towels in assorted colors provides opportunities for a welcome hostess gift.

Pagoda Design

“Our pagoda lanterns, chandeliers, and candle holders are very big sellers,” adds Ms. Johnstone-Butcher, “and customers also love the pagoda design for their monograms.”

Furniture includes chairs, beds, sofas, custom upholstery, and X benches (popular for use as an ottoman or at the foot of the bed), and all of these can be monogrammed.

Design choices for monogramming are seemingly limitless. Every type and style of lettering and initial is available and in every color. In addition to initials, many design choices, such as animals (Staffordshire dogs, elephants, and zebras are very popular), feathers, nautical knots, pineapples, and dragons, among many others, are favorites.

In addition, a selection of jewelry includes gold and silver bracelets and pendants, which can be engraved. A very popular necklace includes a chain, featuring small pendant “tags” suitable for engraving of name, initials, or other design. Starting at $40, including engraving, this is a charming graduation gift.

Many of the monogrammed choices will also make wonderful gifts for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, graduations, and other special events. Red, white, and blue themes are popular for Memorial Day and Fourth of July gatherings.

“We also have lots of wedding items, such as beaded bags and robes, that are very popular monogrammed gifts for bridesmaids,” says Ms. Johnstone-Butcher.

Enthusiastic Response

Prices generally range from $25 for jewelry and small cosmetic cases to $45 for hand towels, $65 for tote bags, and $95 for the pom-pom blankets. All prices include monogramming, which typically takes five days for items in stock, somewhat longer for custom designs.

Ms. Johnstone-Butcher is delighted with the enthusiastic customer response, and reports there is never a dull moment. “I have not been bored a single day. I can hardly believe how busy we have been. It is wonderful to start out with an idea, to create something, and then be able to see it through.

“I am so pleased by the warm welcome both from the customers and the other merchants, and I am very humbled by it. I look forward to growing the business and continuing to deliver unique, special monograms. I love to create new designs, and I am also inspired by ideas from the customers.”

And, she adds, “Remember, with monogramming, you are only limited by your imagination, and we are here to help guide you through that imagination!”

The shop is currently open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours may be extended in the summer. (609) 921-6057. Website: www.togglehome.com.

April 2, 2015

Enticing aromas emerge from Nina’s Waffles at 31 West Mechanic Street in New Hope, Pa. It gets even better when you step inside! Not only are the aromas irresistible, but the waffles are prepared right before your eyes.

The 18th Century Liège waffle is the inspiration for Nina’s recipes, explains manager Heather Lacey. “Our owner Louis Zanias was born in Greece, but grew up in Brussels. He had the Liège waffle during recess at school, and from the time he was a boy, his dream was to introduce these waffles to the U.S.”

That dream came true in 2012, when Mr. Zanias opened Nina’s Waffles, which is named for his youngest daughter. His experience in the restaurant business has given him insight into achieving success in the food industry, but Nina’s Waffles is really in a class by itself.

“We have a great following. There has been terrific word-of-mouth,” reports Ms. Lacey. “It’s amazing how many people have become so passionate about it and how many customers keep coming again and again. People come in and bring the whole family, as well as guests who visit.”

Wonderful Aroma

Nina’s Waffles is set apart in many ways. To start, there is no other enterprise in the area offering the traditional Liège waffle, notes Ms. Lacey. “You really have to go to Manhattan, and no one has our special recipe.

“We make our own dough in a bakery here, and import pearl sugar from Belgium. Unlike other sugar, it doesn’t burn at high temperatures, but becomes caramelized. This helps provide the wonderful aroma people experience here.

“Sean Lawson is Louis’ partner at Nina’s, and he helped develop the recipe for the dough. He also works on the ice cream recipes. He and Louis invent new flavors every week. It’s Philadelphia-style ice cream, with no eggs. We have 100 flavors, with 16 typically available at any one time.”

A waffle and ice cream combination is a favorite for many, she adds. “Most people like to have ice cream on top of the waffle, but others enjoy the waffle plain with no topping. We call it a ‘Naked Waffle’, and it’s delicious because it has a light sweet flavor due to the caramelized sugar.”

Waffle bites are another very popular choice, especially topped by chocolate ganache sauce. “Five or six bites are in a serving, and chocolate is drizzled on top. Some people add a scoop of ice cream,” says Ms. Lacey,

In addition to chocolate, the variety of waffle toppings includes nutella banana, homemade whipped cream and strawberries, dulce de leche, apple whipped tatin cream, and peanut butter caramel.

Special Favorites

The ice cream, which is made on-site with milk from a local dairy, is equally popular, and is available in cones and pints as well as atop the waffles. New flavors, such as key lime pie and blushing cheese cake, are added all the time. Special favorites include vanilla (still number one!), double chocolate, double espresso crunch, mint chocolate chip, sea salt caramel, orange honey blossom, roasted raspberry, and toasted coconut — to mention just some!

“Our small batch ice cream has something for everyone,” points out Ms. Lacey. “Our motto is ‘a little sugar and a lot of love’. We want to be sure that people taste the flavor and not the sugar.”

Nina’s Waffles offers take-out, sit-down for 20 as well as catering, and Ms. Lacey is enthusiastic about the waffle and ice cream truck, which is available for parties and corporate events.

“We have done parties for the eating clubs at Princeton University, and we will be adding a second truck this fall. It’s a vintage 1971 British truck, and we’ll be able to handle even more events. We really look forward to watching the business grow.”

Best Waffles

A second Nina’s Waffles opened in Doylestown, Pa. recently at 30 East State Street, she reports, and this, too, is enjoying a very positive customer response.

“And here in New Hope, we get people from all over, including lots from Princeton. On weekends, many come from Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, and in addition to the great word-of-mouth, many find us on-line. We were also voted the best waffles in the entire area in ‘The Best of Philly’ in Piladelphia Magazine.

Assorted pastries, including small individual tarts and cakes, are also available at Nina’s, as are gluten-free products.

Waffles are priced at $3 for plain and $5.50 with a scoop of ice cream. Ice cream cones are $2.95 and up, starting with kiddie size (available for all ages).

In addition to the tasty waffles and ice cream, customers enjoy the friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere at Nina’s. The staff has a good time, as does Ms. Lacey. Elizabeth Duane, points out that “Heather goes out of her way to explain to the staff how everything should be done, and in a very fun and nice way. We all enjoy sharing information about the waffles and ice cream with the customers.”

Adds Ms. Lacey: “We really look forward to greeting the people. I’ve been in the restaurant business a long time, and it still touches my heart to hand a little girl an ice cream cone and watch her eyes light up or to see someone’s face when they taste our waffles for the first time. I think we spread happiness!”

Nina’s Waffles is open Wednesday and Thursday 1 to 9 p.m., Friday 1 to 10 p.m.,  Saturday noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday noon to 9 p.m. After Memorial Day, hours will be extended to seven days through the summer and fall. (215) 862-1660.

Website: www.ninaswaffles.com.


March 25, 2015
TEAM WORK: “Sometimes, interior design can be an intimidating process, and people don’t know what to expect. At Sophia Rose Designs, our clients are very important, and they can count on us to help them. We are there for them, and are glad to take on all kinds and sizes of projects.” The Sophia Rose Designs team includes from left: Carly Tipton, owner Lisa Sprague, Sally Wood, and Barbara Shearn.

TEAM WORK: “Sometimes, interior design can be an intimidating process, and people don’t know what to expect. At Sophia Rose Designs, our clients are very important, and they can count on us to help them. We are there for them, and are glad to take on all kinds and sizes of projects.” The Sophia Rose Designs team includes from left: Carly Tipton, owner Lisa Sprague, Sally Wood, and Barbara Shearn.

Lisa Sprague, owner of Sophia Rose Designs, is embarked on a new adventure. In 2014, she purchased the longtime Saums Interiors business in Hopewell, and looking to put her own stamp on the operation, re-located it to Pennington.

“All my previous experience came together so I could take advantage of this opportunity,” explains the area resident. “I had spent 15 years working on various interior design projects and kitchen and bathroom remodels, including designing and coordinating numerous projects, from powder rooms to house additions to outdoor living space. I felt the timing was right to establish my own business.”

So, last October, Ms. Sprague opened Sophia Rose Designs, named for her two daughters, at 1 Tree Farm Road, located in a small shopping center on Route 31 North in Pennington.

The focus of her new business is kitchen and bathroom design, and she has assembled a professional team, including interior designer Barbara Shearn, as well as builders, contractors, and sub-contractors.

Staying Put

Ms. Sprague has a home contracting license, and coordinating the projects and working closely with clients is her specialty. “I’m the project manager. I work with the clients and coordinate everything from beginning to end, and I develop a strong, close relationship with the client.”

Homeowners are often opting to stay put and upgrade their existing space rather than move, she adds. Kitchens and bathrooms are especially popular remodels, and very important in terms of resale if the clients decide to sell later.

“Many people are remodeling instead of moving today. People are enjoying being home and entertaining at home,” points out Ms. Sprague. “Upgrades and new additions are very popular. The kitchen is the heart of the home. People just like to congregate there, and you want it to be warm, welcoming, and functional. Also, some of our clients are serious cooks, and it is important to them how things are arranged. We talk about this in the planning stages.”

Indeed, Ms. Sprague spends a lot of time with clients determining their life-style and the extent of time spent in the kitchen and their likes and dislikes.

“We offer a full range of design and decorating services, from planning and drafting to shopping and decorating. Lots of things are in fashion now, and it can be eclectic. For example, I’ve just been working on a kitchen with a rustic floor and contemporary cabinets.

“Also, there’s a new floor product, which is ceramic but looks like hardwood. It’s great for the kitchen or bath. You don’t have the problem of constantly having to wipe up any water that has dripped on the floor.”

Traditional Look

“Both traditional and contemporary styles are favored now, and you also see a transitional look, that is, a combination of both styles.”

Ms. Sprague notes that she continuously researches the latest advances in kitchen and bathroom design and products. “There are many, many wonderful choices today in cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring, and also in paint, wallpaper, and window treatments.”

Both light and dark cabinets are popular, with maple wood cabinets a real favorite in the kitchen. “You can do so much with maple — paint, stain, and glaze,” she explains.

For countertops, granite is very popular both for its look and durability. Others include marble (especially for the bathroom), quartz, and Corian, as well as laminate.

In the case of backsplashes, which are so important in the kitchen, tile is always in demand, and other choices are granite and wood.

Among the cabinet lines available at Sophia Rose Designs are Kraftmaid Kitchen Cabinets and New River Kitchen Cabinets; in addition, Stanley Furniture, Sherrill Furniture, Robert Allen Fabrics, and Thibaut Wallpaper are offered.

Open and Spacious

Islands are a big item in many kitchens these days. “Many clients like to have an island,” points out Ms. Sprague. “They are so useful. You can do whatever you want with them. They can be used for storage, as a cook-top, or dining area — whatever you want.”

Kitchen design, as well as design generally in houses today, often focuses on an open, more spacious motif. Residents are opting for an uninterrupted flow from room to room. “A more open feeling is popular today,” observes Ms. Sprague. “One way to make existing space more effective is to take down a wall.”

The bathrooms of today are a far cry from those of years past. “Bells and whistles” abound, with choices galore. Lighting, cabinetry, countertops, and especially, the variety of showers offer customers tremendous variety.

“In the bathroom, we see a pull away from jacuzzis now,” reports Ms. Sprague. “Showers are very important today, with a lot of frameless models with more glass, and a big variety of shower heads, including waterfalls, cascades, and sprays.”

Helping the client to find the best kitchen or bathroom within their budget is a priority for Ms. Sprague. “Budget is a number one concern, and the cost of labor and materials a major factor. I help them select something within their price range. By the way, if you want to make a change with the least cost, it’s by painting.

“I like to work with the customers so much. I like to help make them happy, and I love winning their trust when they see we’re going in the right direction. The finished product is very important to us, and we’re involved every step of the way.”

Room Settings

“It is also very important for me to have good people working with me,” continues Ms. Sprague. “I am only as good as the team, and we have a great team at Sophia  Rose Designs.”

The attractive showroom offers a variety of room settings, and many samples, including wallpaper and window treatments, for customers to inspect. There is also a selection of retail items, focusing on home accessories, as varied as candles, lamps, and rugs.

“We plan to add a lot more merchandise, including artwork, dinnerware, etc.,” says Ms. Sprague. “We will also be offering Le Cadeaux Melamine dinnerware, appropriate for indoor or outdoor dining.”

Selected items are on sale, she adds, and Sophia Rose Designs also offers “Buy the Look” options, including accent furniture, artwork, mirrors, lamps, and design ideas to help customers plan their own room settings.

“For clients, a new bath or kitchen can be a dream come-true,” points out Ms. Sprague. “For us, every day is a new adventure. Nothing is really the same — different projects and different people. I am looking forward to establishing our business in the area. This is a great location, very busy, with a lot of walk-in traffic. We are sure people will enjoy visiting our showroom.”

Sophia Rose Designs is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 to 5. (609) 730-4171.

Website: www.sophiarosedesigns.net.

MILLION DOLLAR SMILE: “With our prosthodontics practice, we respond to many different situations. With our experience and confidence, we are able to treat complicated conditions and situations.” Dr. Steven C. Isaacson. D.M.D. and Dr. Suzanne B. Reinhardt. D.M.D. of Prosthodontics of Princeton are pleased to offer their patients state-of-the-art dental care.

MILLION DOLLAR SMILE: “With our prosthodontics practice, we respond to many different situations. With our experience and confidence, we are able to treat complicated conditions and situations.” Dr. Steven C. Isaacson. D.M.D. and Dr. Suzanne B. Reinhardt. D.M.D. of Prosthodontics of Princeton are pleased to offer their patients state-of-the-art dental care.

A missing tooth or teeth? A damaged, fractured, or worn tooth? Teeth looking a little “gray”?

If you can identify with any of these situations, Prosthodontics of Princeton may be able to restore that million dollar smile.

Located in Princeton Professional Park at 601 Ewing Street, it is the practice of Dr. Steven C. Isaacson, D.M.D. and Dr. Suzanne B. Reinhardt, D.M.D.

Dr. Isaacson, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry, is continuing the practice started by his father, Dr. George Isaacson in the 1960s. After a one-year general practice residency at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Steven Isaacson went on to obtain specialty training in prosthodontics at Temple University School of Dentistry, with an emphasis on reconstructive and cosmetic dentistry. He then joined his father’s practice in 1988.

Restoration And Replacement

Dr. Reinhardt, a graduate of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, joined Prosthodontics of Princeton in 2004, after extensive training in cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry, including post graduate specialty training at the Manhattan campus of VA NY Harbor Health Care System.

Prosthodontics are dentists who specialize in the aesthetic restoration and replacement of teeth. Two or three years of additional training after dental school are required, where the dentists are educated in state-of-the-art techniques and procedures for treating many different dental conditions. These include crowns, bridges, complete and removable partial dentures, dental implants, TMJ-jaw joint problems, traumatic injuries to the mouth’s structure and/or teeth, and snoring or sleep disorders.

“Teeth can have problems due to extensive cavities or periodontal conditions, or injuries,” explains Dr. Isaacson. “Also, sometimes people have grinding or clenching problems, which can wear down teeth or cause TMJ. We do a full mouth evaluation and come up with a treatment plan with a number of different options.”

One of the major advances in dentistry has been the growing emphasis on implants, he adds. “Implants began in numbers in the 1980s, and this was a total change. Before that, bridges and dentures were used to replace missing teeth.”

Root implants are the most widely used type of implants, and can provide a base for a single tooth or support a bridge or a denture, he explains. They are close in size to a natural tooth. Implants are inserted into the jawbone, and offer stability because the bone grows onto the implant, and once the fusion has occurred, it will allow for more natural and comfortable substitutes for lost teeth than dentures or bridges.

Candidates for implants must have healthy gums and adequate jaw bone to support the implant, points out Dr. Reinhardt. “We now offer ‘Teeth In A Day’. In some cases, we can provide extraction and the implants in one day. It is exciting and really on the cutting edge.”

Brighter Smile

Another important part of the Prosthodontics of Princeton practice, and increasingly popular, is teeth whitening. Many people are looking for a brighter smile these days, and are opting either for over the counter products to do the job or the more thorough and professional procedure a dentist can provide.

Whitening will remove surface stains, due to coffee, red wine, berries, and the passage of the years, notes Dr. Isaacson. “We evaluate a patient to see if whitening is appropriate. For example, only original teeth can change color, not crowns. Whitening can produce great results. We follow the ADA guide lines, and we have not experienced any harmful side effects.”

He adds that whitening is not generally done on patients under college age.

Dr. Isaacson and Dr. Reinhardt emphasize that they participate in continuing education to keep up with the latest advances in their field. “We attend education classes once a month. There are changes and advances in materials, techniques, implants, and medicine, etc. There are so many new materials coming along to help teeth to be strong and beautiful.”

Porcelain veneers (laminates), and bonding are just some of the possibilities available today to keep a smile looking great.

Both Dr. Isaacson and Dr. Reinhardt look forward to continuing to help patients achieve the best outcome for their dental needs They do all they can to provide a comfortable and relaxed environment, and are pleased to have a very strong patient base. “Some of our patients are referred to us by general dentists, and we are very proud that most patients have been referred by other patients. We have a very loyal following.”

All Ages

Although the specialty at Prosthodontics of Princeton is reconstructive and cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Isaacson and Dr. Reinhardt also treat patients for general dentistry. Their patients are all ages, including children. As they point out, “If someone needs restorative work, we can see other family members for general dentistry.

“I enjoy the patients so much,” continues Dr. Reinhardt. “It is wonderful to know that what you are doing is helping them and making a difference for them.”

“I like dealing with the people,” adds Dr. Isaacson. “I love all the different personalities. We really help to make people over, and it’s about trust. I try to explain about the procedure and help the patient become knowledgeable about what is happening. I feel a real closeness with them, and we can truly make a difference in their lives. It’s amazing when someone looks in a mirror and is so happy after the work. I am especially proud of being able to continue my father’s practice. We were a family of dentists.”

Prosthodontics of Princeton is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and one Saturday a month 8 to 1. (609) 924-1975.

Website: www.prosthodonticsofprinceton.com.

March 18, 2015
HEALTHY EATING: “We want Terra Learning Kitchen to be an eye opener. Our message is about eating healthy and eating seasonally. We saw an opportunity to offer healthy food at affordable prices at this central location.” Shown left to right is the Terra Learning Kitchen team: kitchen manager Margo Allen, Raoul and Carlo Momo of Terra Momo Restaurant Group, Dorothy Mullen of the Suppers Program, and pastry chef Natalie Russano.

HEALTHY EATING: “We want Terra Learning Kitchen to be an eye opener. Our message is about eating healthy and eating seasonally. We saw an opportunity to offer healthy food at affordable prices at this central location.” Shown left to right is the Terra Learning Kitchen team: kitchen manager Margo Allen, Raoul and Carlo Momo of Terra Momo Restaurant Group, Dorothy Mullen of the Suppers Program, and pastry chef Natalie Russano.

Reinforcing attitudes about the importance of home-cooked food and educating consumers about the negative consequences of processed foods is the goal of Terra Learning Kitchen.

Indeed, it is a “Kitchen with a Mission!”

“Our shared mission is to promote health by providing tasty whole food for a reasonable cost and educating our community about cooking nutritious food deliciously,” says Raoul Momo, co-owner of Terra Momo Restaurant Group and a founder of Terra Learning Kitchen (TLK).

“Terra Learning Kitchen is dedicated to educating the public about wholesome food and cooking, and how to make healthy food and delicious food the same thing. It offers a variety of cooking classes as well as healthy grab ’n’ go lunches and take-out dinners,” adds TLK kitchen manager Margo Allen.

Combined Venture

Located inside the Program Building of the Princeton Family Y, TLK is a combined venture of the YMCA, The Suppers Program, and the Terra Momo Restaurant Group.

Started in January of 2014, TLK has continued to evolve, and now offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner to go. Eat-in or take-out selections are available five days a week, as well as cooking classes and events focusing on cooking instruction, preparing the meals, and then enjoying the culinary results.

Parties of all kinds, celebrations, and corporate team building events are all popular options.

Delicious and nutritious is the key, point out Raoul Momo and Dorothy Mullen, who are supporters of TLK. Mr. Momo and his brother Carlo Momo are the owners of Terra Momo Restaurant Group, which includes such popular eating establishments as Mediterra, Teresa’s Caffe, Eno Terra, and Terra Momo Bread Company.

Ms. Mullen is the founder of The Suppers Program, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering healthy nutrition and emphasizing its importance in reducing a variety of illnesses and addictions.

Supper meetings are held in central New Jersey, when people gather to “cook together, eat together, learn together, and taste and feel their way to vibrant health using whole food,” reports Ms. Mullen.

Four Principles

“Four principles guide us to our mission,” she adds. “(1) the active practice of non-judgment, (2) whole food preparation, (3) no commercial messages, and (4) restoration of the family table.”

Much of this philosophy is evident at TLK, where the focus is on education about healthy eating as well as providing nutritious dishes.

“There is great need and growing interest for programs that help people understand how to eat better and more nutritiously,” says Mr. Momo. “We share a mutual goal of enhancing people’s well-being and healthy eating. We are very pleased to be adding another dimension to that experience through culinary education. We hear it all the time — people are eager to learn how to eat better and make choices that improve their health, as individuals and as families, without compromising taste.”

But how to do this when everyone is so rushed, trying to balance numerous obligations and tasks, and where budget is a never-ending consideration?

Easy accessibility to nutritious food at affordable prices is the key, believes the TLK team, and they want people to understand the consequences of fast food, processed food, and the health consequences that can result.

“At TLK, we prepare healthy food, all made from scratch, and we make it accessible and convenient for people,” says Ms. Mullen. “We are value-driven. I really come at this from the health angle of preventing disease and unnecessary suffering. Unhealthy eating can be a factor in obesity, diabetes, and other health problems, including addictions, especially in connection with processed food.”

Best Outcome

In the best outcome, healthy eating can ultimately help to prevent illness and reduce medical expenses.

TLK cooking classes include the basics, such as knife skills, soup-making, seasonal cooking, etc., notes Ms. Mullen. “Mini Chef” school is available for children, and it is never too soon for the youngest among us to discover the pleasures of preparing and then eating their culinary creations.

Food and kitchen accessibility — not just from vending machines, microwave ovens, and fast food establishments — is a major concern of the TLK partners. They believe there has been a growing “disconnect” between people and their food, and this has been apparent in the design and use of buildings.

“There was a time when public buildings like schools, libraries, and YMCAs all had proper kitchens. The cafeterias actually cooked food. These days public buildings are being built just with snack bars, warmers, and microwave ovens. This loss of kitchens from public spaces reinforces the sick idea in our culture that good food doesn’t matter, that cooking isn’t necessary,” notes the TLK team.

“What we stand up for by collaborating on TLK is the idea that there’s no separating the health of the people from cooking delicious food. Once you lose a couple of generations of people who know how to cook, it takes a big effort to reverse the mistake. There aren’t enough mothers and grandmothers — and fathers too — passing along skills and traditions, standards, and food values. What used to happen naturally and simply in families now requires complex solutions, including instruction.

“We did a very big experiment. The results are in. You can’t erase local food traditions and cooking from a culture without really bad consequences like diabetes and obesity and all these food-driven diagnoses.”

Back on Track

“Therefore, kitchens in public spaces have to be about more than just getting some food out wherever people gather. The culture needs them to be teaching and learning kitchens too because somehow we have to get our derailed train back on the tracks.”

“That’s why Terra Momo is collaborating with the YMCA and Suppers,” adds Mr. Momo. “The Y and Suppers have health missions, and Terra Momo prizes high standards for quality and sourcing of food. They come together in TLK, which is creating a higher bar and a model of what has to happen with kitchens in public spaces in order to turn around this massive, destructive trend.”

Menu choices at TLK include a variety of tempting dishes. The very popular Breakfast Burrito consists of scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and cheddar cheese; Frittata of the Day features seasonal vegetables and crustless egg quiche; the Smoothie of the Day offers fresh fruit and vegetables, and there is also Greek yogurt, homemade granola, and seasonal fruit compote.

Soup and chili are very much in demand, including turkey chili with ground turkey, kidney beans, bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes; spicy vegetarian chili is another option and includes white beans, black beans, red and green bell peppers, and eggplant spiced with chipotle peppers.

Chicken and kale soup offers chicken breast with carrots, celery, onions, and Tuscan kale, and brown rice (optional).

Salads include Tuscan Kale with tossed almonds, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes in a white balsamic vinaigrette; also Chop Salad featuring local greens, feta cheese, radish, red onion, cauliflower, and crispy garbanzo beans, served with a choice of dressing; and Goat Cheese & Apricot, served over mixed greens with toasted almonds, and choice of dressing.

Noodle-less Lasagna

Tacos and enchiladas round out the menu, and include coconut and chili chicken or pulled pork carnitas on corn tortilla with such toppings as shredded local lettuce, pickled jalapenos, cheddar cheese, queso fresco, Mexican crema, and salsa verde.

Vegetarian enchiladas include corn tortillas filled with quinoa, kale, black beans, and mozzarella cheese, served with tomato sofrito sauce. Other choices are Chicken Cacciatore, Noodle-less Lasagna, including layered roasted zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, house marinara, mozzarella, ricotta, and kale. Turkey meatballs with marinara are another choice, among many others.

Prices range from $3 for the Frittata of the Day, $5 for chili, soup, salads, and tacos, to $8 for Chicken Cacciatore and Lasagna.

“We use only the freshest ingredients, focusing on locally-sourced and seasonally available produce,” says Mr. Momo. “We have a brand new kitchen space, which has been completely renovated. We are open to all the Y members and to the general public. We really want to be involved in the community. I enjoy serving the community. I live here, my kids go to the Y, and I’m really involved on a personal level.

“There is really nothing else like TLK in the area. We plan to have more cooking classes and more events in the All-Purpose Room. We’re excited, and we look forward to seeing our concept and vision grow.”

Terra Learning Kitchen seats 18 inside, and also offers outdoor seating and a picnic table in the garden in warm weather. Parking is free and convenient, and TLK is open Monday and Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 8 to 5. (609) 580-1664. Website: www.terramomo.com. It is also possible to order online.

March 11, 2015
LOOKING GOOD: “We provide hair and make-up services for the multi-cultural community, specializing in wavy, curly, and kinky hair,” explain Nelson (left), and Najwa Comeau, owner-operators of the new Makeovers Studio on Leigh Avenue. They look forward to introducing their services to many more clients.

LOOKING GOOD: “We provide hair and make-up services for the multi-cultural community, specializing in wavy, curly, and kinky hair,” explain Nelson (left), and Najwa Comeau, owner-operators of the new Makeovers Studio on Leigh Avenue. They look forward to introducing their services to many more clients.

Helping clients to look their best is the goal of the owner-operators of Makeovers Studio at 21 Leigh Avenue. Najwa Comeau and Nelson opened the new hair and make-up salon in October, 2014. Both are experienced hair and make-up artists, and believed the timing was right to offer their special skills to the community.

“We think we are filling a need in Princeton for hair and make-up services for the multi-cultural community,” explains Nelson, who has previously worked as a stylist in New York City, Philadelphia, and the Princeton area.

“We are about helping you to find ways to reinvent yourself,” adds Najwa, whose specialty is make-up. “A new look can give you new confidence!”

She was especially pleased to open the new studio at the location of her grandmother’s former salon, Burrell’s Salon/Impulse Corner.

Grandmother’s Legacy

Doris Burrell opened the salon in 1947, and owned and operated it until its closing 12 years ago. The salon drew customers from all over the Princeton area, and as far away as Asbury Park and New York. Customers included a mix of ages and ethnic backgrounds.

“I enjoy carrying on the legacy of my grandmother and continuing what she started,” says Najwa. “She had the first business owned by a black woman in Princeton, and she inspired the careers of a lot of people. I helped my grandmother in the salon when I was a girl, and I liked to be there. I was always interested in hair and make-up.”

Najwa and Nelson completely renovated the space, removing walls, adding new lighting, and artwork. Many of the paintings are Nelson’s original work.

“Eventually, we hope to have an ‘Art Night Out’ once or twice a month, where people can come, enjoy the artwork, have refreshments, and spend time together with us,” notes Nelson.

In addition to her paintings, Nelson’s creativity extends to her hand-crafted jewelry, which is on display. Earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and anklets are all available for sale. She also creates silk pillow cases, which are noted for helping to keep hair styles in place overnight when one is asleep.

Hair and make-up services are the major focus at the studio. Both licensed cosmetologists, Najwa and Nelson keep up on the latest advances and techniques. Both had previously worked as make-up and hair artists at photo shoots for magazines, billboards, and fashion shows and events.

Open to Learning

As they point out, “It is very important to keep up with all the advances and new techniques in both the hair and make-up fields. We are always learning and always open to learning.”

“Nelson is a master stylist, and specializes in hair extensions and color,” continues Najwa. “She knows about many kinds of extensions, and also has special training for non-surgical hair replacements.

“The right system is important,” points out Nelson. “There are temporary extensions and semi-permanent ones. Extensions are very popular today.”

Straightening and relaxers are other services, and different kinds of techniques, including keratin treatments, are available. Steam treatment to restore moisture to hair is another service.

Dreadlocks and braiding are also offered, and in addition, wigs are available. “Sometimes, people have wigs for medical or religious reasons, while other times, they just want a change in their look,” reports Nelson.

Treatments for dry hair, thinning hair, and scalp conditions are also available, as is corrective care for those who have had a bad hair day or for do-it-yourselfers who have made color mistakes.


“Color is extremely important,” says Nelson. “One of my specialties is color for relaxed hair. It must be done properly.”

“Color is a “must-have” for many clients, and for many reasons,” adds Najwa. “Some people want to look as natural as possible; others want to go with a trend or make a statement, and be ‘out there! The sky’s the limit!”

Both Najwa and Nelson emphasize that it is essential that color be applied with careful attention and professional care.

“If you want to make a statement, come to us!” says Najwa, with a smile. “You can have a make-over, and your hair and make-up will reach a whole new level.”

Make-up lessons and applications are available, as well as make-up for weddings, proms, and other special occasions. “It should be occasion-appropriate make-up,” points out Najwa. “Make-up can change for different occasions and from day to evening; just as your wardrobe changes, your face can change. And there is an art to it.

“The idea with make-up, really, is to look like yourself, but enhanced. With instruction, you can learn to apply make-up in five minutes — the ‘Five Minute Face!’ Be sure to have all the products you need nearby and only the ones you will use. First, even out the skin, then groom the eyebrows, apply liner and mascara, blush, lip — and you’re done!

“Five Minute Face”

Najwa adds that skin type — color, tone, oily, dry, etc. — is important for make-up choices. Make-up can also change seasonally, as in summer or winter, and life-style is another issue.

“I teach a workshop on the ‘Five Minute Face’, and focus on office to evening,” she explains. “You go to work with day-appropriate make-up, and you can take that same face with you for an evening occasion. I’ll show you how to make it ‘evening’ without washing, just a little sprucing up to make it evening-appropriate, and you’re ready to go!

“What I enjoy so much about make-up is seeing how much everyone likes it. Make-up is fun. I work with so many ages, and it’s creative and artistic. We have young teens come in, and they may be experimenting with make-up for the first time. We want to help them with appropriate make-up and also to learn about proper hygiene with the use of make-up. It is also important not to keep make-up products too long, especially eye products. For example, you should get new mascara after three months.”

As in the case of the hair industry, make-up changes have exploded over the years, reports Najwa. “There are so many more shades and products and techniques today than when I first started.”

The clients at Makeovers Studio are all ages and ethnic backgrounds, and include a number of men, who are often experimenting with color, especially gray reduction, and eye brow grooming, notes Nelson.

“Generally, with hair, our bread and butter is style and blow dry, and frequently for clients who come in once a week.”

Three Generations

The salon is offering a $20 discount off hair services for first time customers.

Both Najwa and Nelson are pleased that the studio is off to such an encouraging start, including enthusiastic word-of-mouth communication.

“It’s wonderful to have the business here,” adds Najwa. “I grew up and went to school in this neighborhood. How many people can say they have a business in their home town? And there are three generations in town: my grandmother, my mother, and me. Also, my brother Shahid Abdul-Karim is a policeman in Princeton.

“I feel blessed to carry on my grandmother’s legacy, and also to work side by side with Nelson, who is so much like and just as talented as my grandmother.

“We look forward to growing the business and building a brand of quality that people can count on. We want to be a staple in the community. We believe we are helping people feel good about themselves. When they look better, they feel better, have more confidence and self-esteem. It’s very creative work, and the fun part is seeing how happy our clients are.”

Makeovers Studio is open Monday by appointment, Tuesday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday 11 to 7, Thursday 10 to 8, Friday 10 to 6, Saturday 10 to 4. (609) 285-3721. Facebook: Makeovers Studio 21.

Piccolo Trattoria is almost too good to be true. This Ristorante Italiano is located in the Hopewell Valley Crossing Shopping Center just off Route 31 South at R Denow Road in Pennington. It offers an exceptional array of Italian dishes, including pizzas, pasta, and paninis, as well as appetizers, entrees, soups, and salads of all kinds.

Owned by Fami Elabed, it is one of three Piccolo Trattorias he has established, including two in Pennsylvania.

“This is my passion,” he says. “We’re set apart by our fresh ingredients, special recipes, and our presentation. We are brilliant at the basics! And we have many regular customers from all over the area and beyond. We are very popular with families, and we have a children’s menu.

Mr. Elabed’s passion for Italian cuisine, served to his guests as if they were his own family, is the driving force behind all three Piccolo Trattorias. At the age of 12, he entered the hospitality industry by working at a pizzeria and learning every aspect of the trade. After high school, he took the next step in his career by apprenticing under chefs who taught him the nuances of creating authentic Italian cuisine. And always, there was the underlying desire to own and operate his own restaurant.

Spacious Restaurant

This dream was realized in 2001, when Mr. Elabed opened the first of his Piccolo Trattorias, in Newtown, Pa., followed by the Pennington location in 2005, and then most recently, the restaurant in Langhorne, Pa.The spacious Pennington restaurant combines a pizzeria, bistro, and main dining room with seating for 170. Outside, patio dining accommodates 25 people, who can enjoy the attractive setting which features a large fountain.

The restaurant reflects an Italian ambiance with artwork and posters of Italian scenes decorating the walls. Handsome tile flooring is notable throughout the bistro, dining room, and pizzeria. White tablecloths, yellow and black napkins create an inviting setting for guests in the main dining room, while the pizzeria is more informal, with a relaxed down-to-earth atmosphere.

Lunch, dinner, and take-out are available at Piccolo, and catering has also become a big part of the business, “We bring the restaurant to your house,” reports Mr. Elabed. A complete variety of dishes is offered for every size and style of events, he adds.

“We also do a lot of corporate business, both catering at their locations and luncheons and dinners here.”

The menu at Piccolo is truly remarkable. The number and variety of choices offers a dish for every taste. Appetizers include the very popular Antipasto Rustico, with prosciutto, sopressata, sharp provolone, shaved reggiano, fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, and grilled marinated vegetables drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil. An assortment of calamari (fried and grilled) is another favorite, as are the restaurant’s signature crab cakes.

Daily Specials

Piccolo is known for its bronzini fish dishes. This popular Mediterranean fish is baked and filleted, and served with black olives. Chicken Amali is always in demand, and salmone alla Piccolo (grilled salmon over sauteed cannellini beans and spinach in a port wine reduction), and shrimp scampi are other favorites.

“We also have specials every day,” notes Mr. Elabed. “We find that some people like to have their favorite dish every time they come in, and others like to experiment and try something different.”

Popular pasta dishes include numerous choices, such as fusilli matriciana (pasta tossed with a tangy sauce with grape tomatoes, sauteed pancetta, onions, fresh basil, and fresh garlic); fettucine alfredo (egg noodle pasta in a creamy parmiagiano and pecorino romano cheese sauce, with chicken or shrimp); and homemade gnocchi ( homemade potato dumplings in a choice of gorgonzola cream sauce, vodka cream sauce, mariana bolognese or pesto sauce, with chicken or shrimp), among many others.

Piccolo’s apple walnut salad with gorgonzola cheese in homemade Piccolo classic balsamic vinaigrette is another very popular choice.

And then, there are the pizzas! Just about every possible pizza combination one can imagine is available. The Brooklyn Old World Pizza is Piccolo’s signature pizza, with its thin crust, special plum tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a touch of parmigiano cheese.

“This is a real specialty for us,” says Mr. Elabed.

Homemade Bread

Many, many others are on the menu, along with the paninis, strombolis, and calzones, all Italian specialties.

Mr. Elabed points out that many gluten-free choices are offered. “We accommodate people who have special dietary needs, and we have many vegetarian dishes.

Homemade bread is also baked on the premises, and Piccolo is known for its popular garlic knots.

Desserts highlight homemade tiramisu and cannoli, among many others, including a variety of chocolate specialties. Cappuccino and espresso are available, along with a selection of other beverages.

Piccolo does not have a liquor license, but many diners bring wine or spirits to accompany their meal.

Prices at the restaurant cover a range, with appetizers from $7.99, paninis from $9, pasta from $11, and other entrees from $14.

Mr. Elabed is proud of the reputation he has established with his restaurants, and looks forward to continuing to please his customers’ palates. “We are in the hospitality business. Our goal is to make everyone happy from the time they come in until they leave, after having had a great meal. My passion is to make sure that whoever walks in is part of the Piccolo family. We welcome our guests. We want them to enjoy coming to dine with us.

“We also feel we are part of the community, and we always want to give back. I believe hard work pays off. We have established very high standards, and we continue to meet those standards. Customers can count on that. And I have a great staff, who give wonderful service. Many have been here since Day One.”

Piccolo Trattoria is open Sunday through Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, Saturday, Sunday until 11. (609) 737-9050. Website: piccolotrattoria.com.

THE REAL THING: “We are set apart by serving authentic Mexican street food.” The corporate team of The Taco Truck includes from left, marketing director Stephanie Hague, owner Jason Scott, vice president of operations Nolan Woods, and owner Chris Viola. They are enthusiastic about their new restaurant, which offers authentic “taqueria” cuisine — the real thing!

THE REAL THING: “We are set apart by serving authentic Mexican street food.” The corporate team of The Taco Truck includes from left, marketing director Stephanie Hague, owner Jason Scott, vice president of operations Nolan Woods, and owner Chris Viola. They are enthusiastic about their new restaurant, which offers authentic “taqueria” cuisine — the real thing!

“Eat more tacos!” That is the motto — and the hope — of The Taco Truck, newly opened in the Princeton Shopping Center.

Chris Viola and Jason Scott had this great idea — bring the authentic Mexican “taqueria” street food, especially tacos, to the east coast of the United States.

“It was really Jason’s idea,” explains Chris Viola. “He had been in Mexico and had really liked Mexican street food. He wanted to offer customers here authentic Mexican tacos. While he was a businessman, he didn’t have restaurant experience, and that’s where I came in. I had gone to Cornell’s Hotel School, and then worked in food and beverage at Four Seasons.”

So, in 2009, the two entrepreneurs formed a partnership and established their first Taco Truck in Hoboken. They enlisted the expertise of experienced culinary professionals from Mexico City to create the authentic recipes, and then sent their truck out to various events and farmers’ markets in the area.

Brick and Mortar

Their tacos and related items (tortas, burritos, quesadillas, etc.) were such a hit that the partners were inspired to open a brick and mortar restaurant in Hoboken in 2010, and then add new locations to meet increasing requests from customers.

They established a very successful kiosk on Manhattan’s High Line, and opened restaurant/cafes in Boston, Cambridge, Mass., and Morristown, N.J.

The Princeton location is their most recent undertaking, and while only open since December 26, it has received excellent reviews, and has been attracting scores of customers of all ages, including many families, every day.

“Princeton is a great fit for us,” reports Mr. Viola. “We had been here with our truck for events at the university and McCarter Theater, and people have been very receptive. We liked the idea of the Princeton Shopping Center because it is central, and also the parking is so easy and convenient. We are so encouraged. We’re getting great comments from customers and also from the other merchants. We have great neighbors.”

As they enter the “south-of-the-border” Taco Truck restaurant, customers are first enticed by the appealing aromas of tacos in various stages of preparation. The friendly staff is quick to take an order, and also explain any Spanish terms on the menu that a customer may not know.

Among the most popular tacos are “pescado”, served with crispy catfish, red cabbage, pico de gallo, tartar, and chipotle salsa in flour tortillas; “aguacate tostada” with crispy avocado, black beans, sesame seeds, pickled onions, tortillas fritas, and chipolte salsa.

Toasted Sandwiches

Other favorites include “pollo asado” with grilled chicken, lime pickled onions, and roasted red salsa; and “al pastor”, featuring marinated pork, onions, cilantro, pineapple, and fresh green salsa; among other popular items.

Tortas are toasted Mexican sandwiches, explains Mr. Viola. “Not everyone knows this, and we enjoy educating customers about our food. This is a real goal for us.”

Among the sandwiches, which are served with white onion, pickled jalapeno, avocado, crema, and black beans, are “barbacoa” with braised beef and chipotle salsa; “carnitas” or braised sweet pork with cilantro; and “pollo asado” or grilled chicken.

Burritos, served with red rice and black beans in a flour tortilla, include “al pastor” with marinated pork, onion, cilantro, pineapple, and fresh green salsa; “pollo asado” or grilled chicken with lime-pickled onion, and roasted red salsa; and “verduras” (seasonal vegetables).

There is always a vegetarian choice among all the selections.

Guacamole, salsa, and rice and beans are favorite side dishes, along with street corn (on the cob with mayonnaise, cheese, chili piquin, and lime); and La Capital soup with chicken, rice, hominy, lima beans, carrots, corn, cilantro, and chipotle.

A popular salad features mixed greens, cheese, tomato, avocado, pumpkin seeds, crispy tortilla, and pineapple vinaigrette. Chicken, beef, pork, or fish can be added for an extra cost.

Customer’s Taste

Any of the items can be prepared according to the customer’s taste, regarding mild to spicy seasoning.

Authentic Mexican sweets feature “plantano’s fritos” or fried sweet plantains with crema and sugar; and “churros” — fried dough, cinnamon, sugar, and seasonal sauce.

Beverages include Mexican Coca-Cola (with no high fructose corn syrup), Mexican sodas, and fresh fruit waters, among others.

Prices range from $5 for one taco (most taco dishes include three tacos) to $8.75 for the top-priced burrito or torta. Sides and sweets start at $2.50, and beverages at $2. The children’s menu includes tacos and quesadillas for $3.50.

The Taco Truck also has a growing catering business, with off-site birthday parties, corporate events, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc., and the trucks are busy all year round. All sizes of events, from 15 to 500, can be accommodated.

Mr. Viola and Mr. Scott are committed to offering the freshest ingredients with a focus on healthy, high quality products. “We are set apart by our quality ingredients,” says Mr. Viola. “All of our meat is antibiotic-free. We support local farmers who raise their animals on a vegetarian diet without antibiotics or hormones. We get the freshest ingredients we can find and we try to make a positive impact on our planet every day.

“All our packaging is compostable, and we compost our left-over food and packaging three times a week. We compost thousands of pounds of food and packaging waste every year.”


Mr. Viola is pleased that customers, who are a cross-section of families, Princeton University students, high school students, and business people, share The Taco Truck’s focus, not only on healthy food, but on the health of the environment.

“Our four core principles are (1) hospitality, (2) authenticity, (3) sustainability, and (4) community involvement. Wherever we open, we focus on the community by being active in our neighborhood through ongoing community involvement. We feel very fortunate that the community has welcomed us in Princeton.”

At the shopping center, lunch and dinner are available seven days, with take-out and sit-down equally popular. Fifty diners can be seated inside, with outdoor seating expected to be available in the spring.

“I want our customers to enjoy the food and have a great experience here,” says Mr. Viola. “We have an opportunity to make a real impact.”

The Taco Truck is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (609) 580-1384. Website: www.thetacotruck.com.

“This is just a great place. It is so welcoming. It’s a mixture of luxury, comfort, and simplicity. And, the English breakfast is amazing! My parents are from Manhattan; I’m from Vermont, and we love to get together here.”

This comment by April Stein is very typical of the guests who enjoy the hospitality at the Inn At Bowman’s Hill in New Hope.

Located at 518 Lurgan Road, the Inn, which is actually a high-end Bed & Breakfast, opened in 2005.

“We are open year-round, and are especially busy on weekends, when we are nearly always 100 percent full. The summer and Christmas time are also very busy,” says owner and Innkeeper Mike Avery.

Top 10

Located on a 5-plus-acre estate, this exclusive Bed & Breakfast is two miles south of New Hope, and very close to the 100-acre Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, a very popular Bucks County landmark.

The Inn has been named in the Top 10 Most Romantic Bed & Breakfasts in the U.S. by five different organizations, including Forbes Traveler and Trip Advisor.

Guests enjoy walking on the pathways of this splendid estate, taking a dip in the heated swimming pool, lounging in the hot tub, watching the fish in the two koi ponds, and taking time to relax in the beautiful natural setting, amidst extensive woodlands and the sights and sounds of nature.

The Inn is a certified wildlife habitat, points out Mr. Avery. An abundance of flora and fauna, including white-tailed deer, foxes, raccoons, snapping turtles, tree frogs, and large numbers of bird species, adds interest for many guests.

“An ornithologist from Cornell University was here, and either saw or heard 80 different species of birds,” reports Mr. Avery. “One of the things I sometimes forget is what a beautiful environment we live in. The natural beauty we have here — the animals, birds, and flowers.”

The landscaping is indeed lovely, replete with plants and flowers, and tranquil fountains. An orchid conservatory contains an array of beautiful specimens.

Optic Stars

The Inn provides eight rooms, including four suites, each with its own fireplace and private bathroom with heated, two-person whirlpool bath. “We have added two new suites this year,” notes Mr. Avery, “and we put in a corner tub with 300 fiber optic stars in the ceiling that twinkle, a shooting star, and also a steam shower with 11 shower heads.”

Spa services at the inn include a variety of different types of massage, he adds.

Born and brought up in England, Mr. Avery traveled extensively, and worked for more than 30 years with Bristol Myers-Squibb, headquartered in Princeton. Changing his focus in 2001, he purchased the Inn (then a private home) and totally renovated it, with a bow to his English heritage.

“Everything has been completely renovated,” he notes, adding, however, “There’s an old saying: ‘There’s nothing new under the sun; just new ways of combining things.’”

The result of his efforts is a handsome and impressive Inn that is a haven for adults of all ages. Not the least of its attractions is the full scale English breakfast, which in the early days of the inn’s existence, Mr. Avery cooked himself. He now employs the services of chef Anastasio, who prepares everything to order.

“Our signature English breakfast includes eggs any style, bacon, sausage, tomato, baked beans, mushroom, and potatoes,” explains Mr. Avery. “We also offer pancakes, fresh syrup, fresh muffins everyday, and eight or nine different juices. Right now, the most popular juice is the orange and carrot combination.”

Soufflé Omelet

“We also offer eggs benedict and my own special soufflé omelet 70 percent of the guests choose the full English breakfast.”

They also like the fact that the eggs are from the inn’s own chickens, who live on the estate, and many of the tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables are grown on a nearby farm.

Chef Anastasio can accommodate guests with special dietary needs, adds Mr. Avery. “A lot of people have gluten intolerance now, and we have gluten-free items for them. Anastasio creates wonderful dishes for everyone.”

Attention to detail and mindfulness for each guest’s comfort is the key to the Inn’s success, believes Mr. Avery. “The four important words that describe what our guests experience here are: relax, celebrate, reconnect, and remember. Our guest’s privacy and discretion are our number one priority.

“We have a lot of people who come to celebrate their anniversary. Recently, a couple came to celebrate their 70th! We also had a 92-year-old guest with his 88-year-old bride.

“Some people are rekindling a relationship, and other people might come before they are going into surgery or about to experience some other major event.”

English Royalty

Guests are from all over the U.S. and also abroad, he adds. “We have people from Europe, Asia, and Australia. Our guests include English royalty, musicians, actors, and military officers. It’s a wide spectrum. I very much enjoy the diversity of the people I meet at the Inn. They are really, really interesting individuals.”

He adds that a surprising number of guests are people from nearby New Jersey and Bucks County. “We really get a lot of local guests, just looking for a relaxed or romantic time in a beautiful setting. We have a lot of excellent word-of-mouth and many, many repeat guests. A lot of people also find us on-line today.”

The Inn is also a focal point for executive retreats, he points out. The property is ideally suited for a small group of up to 15 persons, and an excellent setting for brainstorming, strategic planning, and high-level client interaction. “We have a great meeting room, and we get a lot of business from corporations on the Princeton Route One corridor,” says Mr. Avery.

New Hope and the surrounding area offer an array of activities for the Inn At Bowman’s Hill guests. Many fine restaurants, shopping, and sightseeing opportunities are nearby.

A classically-trained musician, Mr. Avery now especially enjoys playing blue grass, and can be found every Sunday night playing at the nearby Bowman’s Tavern. In October, he took a rare three days off to attend a blue grass festival in North Carolina.

Tending to the needs of his guests is a full-time endeavor, and as he says, “Maintenance must be 100 percent. Right now, we are in the midst of changing 700 light bulbs to LED. This will cut our lighting expenses.

“In this day and age, you are judged every day in the court of public opinion. We work very hard to please our guests, and this is a way to make people happy.”

In addition, giving back to others is an important part of Mr. Avery’s philosophy, This is particularly in evidence every Veteran’s Day, when six rooms at the inn are given free of charge to currently-serving military men and women and veterans. A special musical program is also presented for them.

“This is a part of the ‘Better Way to Stay’ national program,” explains Mr. Avery, “and it is something we look forward to doing every year.”

The Inn at Bowman’s Hill is open year-round. (215) 862-8090. Website: theinnatbowmanshill.com.

March 4, 2015
YOGA FOR YOU: “Yoga helps in so many ways. It gives you an inner sanctuary where you can separate yourself from the outside world. Yoga teaches us to face and be able to accept the stresses of life. With yoga, you are being grounded and centered.” Annie Isaacson, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Rise Power Yoga, is shown demonstrating the “Compass” pose.

YOGA FOR YOU: “Yoga helps in so many ways. It gives you an inner sanctuary where you can separate yourself from the outside world. Yoga teaches us to face and be able to accept the stresses of life. With yoga, you are being grounded and centered.” Annie Isaacson, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Rise Power Yoga, is shown demonstrating the “Compass” pose.

It has become a $10 billion industry today. It is a worldwide phenomenon, with adherents practicing it at all levels of experience and for many reasons. Among them are exercise, meditation, relaxation, stress release, to mention just a few.

Indeed, those who study and practice yoga are all ages, from all backgrounds, professions, and mind-sets.

“My clients range in age from high school students to people in their seventies,” says Annie Isaacson, certified yoga instructor and owner of Rise Power Yoga. “They include men and women, Princeton University students, professors, a surgeon from Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, as well as people currently unemployed. They represent all levels of society, and everyone is the same here.

“We have clients from all over the world. Princeton is such an international community. The most amazing thing is that despite coming from different places, countries, and backgrounds, everyone is searching for something that is very similar.”

“Magic Window”

Located at 80 Nassau Street, Suite 2D on the second floor, Rise Power Yoga opened last August. It is situated in a studio formerly occupied by Yoga Above, where Ms. Issacson had been an instructor.

“From the first moment I was in this location, it was a transformation, an ‘aha’ moment,” she explains. “I was at the window, which looks out on Nassau Street and across to the Princeton University campus and Nassau Hall, and I felt this connection. I called it my ‘Magic Window’. Connection is very important, and it is an important part of yoga.”

Ms. Issacson began practicing yoga 10 years ago, and then studied with Baron Baptiste, founder of the Baptiste Yoga Institute.

“He is an internationally-renowned yoga teacher, and Baptiste Power Yoga emphasizes Vinyasa yoga and Yin yoga. I was trained in New York City and Montclair, N.J., and I have more than 400 hours of training. Vinyasa is more athletic; yin is a more relaxed form of yoga, with deep stretching. We also have classes in hot yoga and power yoga, which are more vigorous, strenuous, and challenging.

“The Baptiste Yoga practice is designed to empower you with the focus, training, and insight you need to achieve consistent results in the most important areas of your life. A potent physical yoga practice, meditation practice, and active self-inquiry are used as tools of transformation, encouraging participants to reclaim their full potential, discover creativity, awaken passion, and create authenticity, confidence, and new possibilities.”

Whatever the style of yoga, mindfulness of one’s breathing is always stressed, she adds. “With yoga, you become an observer of your breathing. Yoga brings mind and body together through the breath. There are mental and physical benefits. Yoga means ‘yoke’ in sanskrit, to come together.”

Lightness and Vibrancy

“A number one benefit of yoga is promoting healthy circulation and getting the body back into proper alignment,” continues Ms. Isaacson. “This helps to give mental focus, awareness, and well-being. Integrating is also one of the most important elements in the practice of yoga. You need to understand the internal and connect with who you really are. All the poses in yoga are designed to integrate you from the inside out, and the poses require you to concentrate.

“Also, with the practice of yoga we learn to be in the present moment, and then those who practice it will be able to be at their best to face the challenges in the outside world. At the end of a class, they achieve a sense of lightness and vibrancy.”

The studio, which is distingquished by its infra-red heating (from ceiling panels), has room for 30 individuals, with a typical class involving 15 to 20 participants. Most come twice a week, although attending three weekly sessions offers the most benefit, points out Ms. Isaacson. Even coming once a week, however, is helpful.

The classes, which are one hour and 15 minutes, are for those of all levels of experience, and also for people with a variety of health conditions. “Classes can be modified to accommodate those who have been injured, have arthritis, or other issues,” explains Ms. Isaacson. “I am also looking forward to sharing yoga with people with special needs and challenges, and encouraging them to practice yoga. I want it to be accessible to everyone.”

A variety of payment arrangements are available, she adds. An introductory special for new students is $40 for 30 days unlimited access. Others include $50 for five classes, and $90 for 10. A membership is $108 a month for unlimited classes.

Ms. Isaacson is very enthusiastic about the benefits yoga offers to everyone, and she is proud of her instructors. “We are set apart by the experience and level of training our instructors have. Their minimum numbers of hours of training are 200 and three have 500 hours. I continue to take classes myself four times a week. To be the best instructor you can, it is very important that you be consistent with your own practice.”

Shining Light

“In addition, our instructors stay current in their teaching and personal practice by continuous education and training at advanced teacher workshops. It is our goal for our instructors to be a shining light for each student.

Ms. Isaacson looks forward to continuing to share the benefits of yoga with more and more practitioners, and she sees many possibilities ahead. “The most surprising thing was that while it was a dream for me to open this studio, I found that once you achieve your dream, you see that the journey continues. This is just the beginning. There is so much more that you can achieve. You feel so limitless.

“Yoga, for me, is community service. It’s about giving back. I am so excited to see how much more the clients can understand and learn about yoga. There is birth and death, and in between, there is the unknown. Yoga gives us an opportunity to create with the universe. We believe that connection is the key to progression, knowledge is confidence, and confidence is power.”

Rise Power Yoga offers classes seven days a week, starting at 5:45 a.m. and continuing throughout the day. The last class is held at 7:30 p.m. Call or consult the website for hours of specific classes. (908) 752-8769.


MATH MAGIC: “Math is very functional. It underlies so much of what we do in ordinary life. With our Mathnasium method, a thorough understanding of math and development of number sense is the goal.” Jennifer Zhang (left), director of Mathnasium of Princeton, The Math Learning Center, is shown with Alice Barfield, director of programs for the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce and Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, at the center’s grand opening.

MATH MAGIC: “Math is very functional. It underlies so much of what we do in ordinary life. With our Mathnasium method, a thorough understanding of math and development of number sense is the goal.” Jennifer Zhang (left), director of Mathnasium of Princeton, The Math Learning Center, is shown with Alice Barfield, director of programs for the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce and Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, at the center’s grand opening.

“Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.”

This comment by Albert Einstein is displayed on the wall of the new location of Mathnasium of Princeton, The Math Learning Center.

It is included with the sentiments of other great thinkers, as well as with the original remarks of some of Mathnasium’s students. These comments are consistent with the center’s approach to make math both accessible and enjoyable.

Mathnasium, located in the Princeton Shopping Center, opened in December, and is dedicated to helping students in kindergarten through 12th grade understand the underlying concepts of mathematics and improve their overall mathematical ability. The tutors and teachers use the Mathnasium Method designed and developed by founder and chief instruction officer Larry Martinek.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, Mathnasium has gained wide recognition, and now has more than 500 independently-owned franchises in the U.S. and Canada.

Success in Math

Whether the goal is to “catch up, keep up, or get ahead”, Mathnasium can provide the means for success in math.

Director of Mathnasium of Princeton Jennifer Zhang is enthusiastic about the center’s mission both to help students who have trouble in math class as well as to challenge those who exhibit strong mathematical ability.

“Parents will notice if their child is not doing well in math, even struggling, and they can come to us for help,” says Ms. Zhang. “In other cases, a child may be doing very well, and their parents want them to have additional challenges.

“Sometimes, even the very good students can have some gaps in their knowledge of math, however, and our job is to find and fill the gaps.”

Ms. Zhang explains that students are given an initial test to assess their level. “The instructors use our unique assessment process to determine exactly what each child knows and what they need to learn. Then we design a customized learning plan for teaching the concepts the student needs to master and offer personalized instruction.”

She adds that the instructors continually check the students’ progress to make sure they truly understand and retain the concepts. She also emphasizes that a friendly and comfortable learning environment is established in which students are encouraged to ask questions. “We provide a wonderful learning experience and environment. We want our students to be engaged and feel free to ask questions.”

Excellent Opportunity

A native of China, Ms. Zhang came to the U.S. to attend the Stevens Institute of Technology, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master’s in computer science. In addition, she obtained an MBA at New York University.

Her career path led her to banking and finance in New York City, and after 20 years in those fields, she wanted to change direction. The chance to open the Mathnasium franchise in Princeton was an excellent opportunity.

“Princeton is a perfect fit for Mathnasium, and the shopping center is a great location. I really wanted to help students do well in math and come to enjoy it. I started by helping my own daughters, and I found I wanted to help others too. One of the main reasons students struggle in math class is because they lack the prerequisite knowledge for advanced classes. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including changing schools, missing classes because of illness, etc. If these gaps are not filled, it will just become worse.”

On the other hand, she points out, “The more you do math, the better at it you become, and you are prepared to meet its challenges.”

Sessions at Mathnasium are one hour, and students usually attend two to three times a week. Typically, there are two to four students working with one instructor. The students sit at a long table, and work with pencil and paper, as well as with “manipulatives” (props) which provide hands-on understanding of mathematics concepts, notes Ms. Zhang.

Each student works with the materials in his or her binder, she adds. “The binder has materials that specifically address the student’s individual gaps and what they need to learn to build a strong math foundation.”

Learning Center

Their work is very individualized according to their needs and learning goals, but students of similar ages can work together. Also, homework help can be provided.

Ms. Zhang looks forward to Mathnasium of Princeton becoming a sought-after learning center to help students appreciate and value mathematics and build their math skills while having fun.

“We are set apart because we are very specialized and focus only on math. It allows us to be more effective. We are teaching for understanding. That is the underlying method of our curriculum and the way we teach.

“I look forward to having more students and helping them understand math and do well in school. I really enjoy seeing the kids ‘get’ it, and working with them is so much fun.”

Six month membership programs are available at the center, with classes Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. (609) 256-6284. Website: www.mathnasium.com/princeton.

January 28, 2015
LIFE-LONG LEARNING: “Our students with dyslexia or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) often experience language-based learning differences. We offer a multi-sensory, hands-on learning experience, a traditional and enriched curriculum. Learning can be approached in different ways.” The administrative team at Cambridge School in Pennington includes, from left: co-founder Jim Peters, co-founder, head of school and executive director Deborah C. Peters, assistant head of school and educational administrator James Maher, and assistant head of school and director of admissions Melody Maskell.

LIFE-LONG LEARNING: “Our students with dyslexia or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) often experience language-based learning differences. We offer a multi-sensory, hands-on learning experience, a traditional and enriched curriculum. Learning can be approached in different ways.” The administrative team at Cambridge School in Pennington includes, from left: co-founder Jim Peters, co-founder, head of school and executive director Deborah C. Peters, assistant head of school and educational administrator James Maher, and assistant head of school and director of admissions Melody Maskell.

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I’ll remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

This sentiment, thought to have originated with a Chinese philosopher circa 200-300 B.C., underlies the educational philosophy of Cambridge School in Pennington.

Established in 2001 by Jim and Deborah C. Peters, the day school focuses on educating students with dyslexia, ADHD (attention deficit disorder), and others who struggle with language-based learning differences.

“Cambridge School was founded on the belief that every child deserves the opportunity for an excellent education,” reports the school’s mission statement. “We are committed to providing that education in a warm, nurturing, and individualized learning environment for children who learn differently.

“We provide a multi-sensory, whole-child approach to education in a non-clinical, nurturing traditional school environment. We promise our students opportunities to investigate their interests, acquire confidence in their abilities, believe in their own intrinsic worth, and develop the skills necessary to achieve success.”

Extensive Training

Located at 100 Straube Center Boulevard, the school currently offers enrollment for kindergarten through 9th grade. In September of 2015, it will expand the Upper School to include 10th grade, and by 2017, the school plans to offer a fully operational Upper School with the inclusion of 11th and 12th grade.

Head of School Deborah C. Peters, a nationally-certified counselor and licensed family therapist, has extensive training in special education and multi-sensory education. A former instructor at the college level, Ms. Peters also served as counselor to junior and senior students.

“I saw that many of the students were struggling with their college work, and it was manifested in anxiety and worry about their classes,” she recalls.

In some cases, she believed that they were evidencing language-based learning differences, and Ms. Peters began to think about starting her own school, one where early intervention would be emphasized.

“I want people to know that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. It affects children and adults, and is a neurological condition. Research shows the earlier dyslexia is diagnosed, the better. Early intervention is important.

“I wanted to have a school that began with kindergarten, and I also wanted the school to be accredited by a third party for quality assurance. We are accredited by the Middle States Association Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools.”

Brain Conference

Having such accreditation enables the school to explore, investigate, and execute a variety of educational methods, adds James Maher, assistant head of school and educational administrator. “With this accreditation and the autonomy of working in a private school environment, we can be on the cutting edge of research. For example, we go to the Brain Conference, held twice a year, at which neuroscientists and clinicians take part. We are learning so much more about dyslexia, including identifying it and ways to address it.”

As the research advances and more data become available, new opportunities emerge both for teachers and students to find the best educational possibilities.

“Even as recently as a year ago, dyslexia was not recognized by schools as a learning disability,” points out Ms. Peters. “Our teachers have always had specialized training, including our own Cambridge School training, and we also emphasize continuing education. The level of training our teachers have is outstanding. Our faculty is so collaborative, enthusiastic, and well-trained.”

In addition, a professional staff includes four speech/language pathologists and an occupational therapist.

Individualized instruction is an important priority at the school. The average student-teacher ratio is 4 to one, adds Melody Maskell, assistant head of school and director of admissions. “All our students are individuals and learn in different ways. We have a very nurturing learning environment, and self-advocacy is encouraged. We want kids to ask questions and be comfortable in the class.

“And the secret to our success is consistency, cutting edge technology, scientific research, and our social cognitive strategies.”


The majority of students at Cambridge School are dyslexic, while others face the challenges of ADHD or a combination of both of those conditions.

“ADHD kids can have trouble with executive function, planning and organizing, and following through,” notes Ms. Peters. “We have introduced a mindfulness program, targeting attention and ability to focus, and the kids are calmer and more relaxed afterward. We see that some of our kids are out-of-the-box thinkers, critical thinkers. And many are creative and artistic. We offer both fine arts and performing arts classes for all our students.”

The Arts Center is a vital part of the school’s focus. Performing arts, visual arts, music (including a bell choir) are all emphasized. Integration of many of the disciplines is included to offer students a well-rounded program. Physical education, Taekwondo, computer literacy, architecture, graphic design, and social skills are integral parts of the Cambridge plan.

“The kids are often right-brained and artistically-focused,” observes Mr. Maher. “We have courses in architecture and engineering for the Lower School, and graphic design in the Upper School. It’s a focus on further strengthening their visual/spatial skills.”

For children who learn differently, there is often a discrepancy between ability and performance, point out the experts at Cambridge School. They may have an uneven learning profile, and typically, cycles of failure and frustration are established.

“Breaking through those cycles is the most important goal,” explains Ms. Peters. “To accomplish this, we believe in enhancing self-esteem by focusing on positive outcomes and meaningful successes.”

Leading Methods

Students at Cambridge are of average to superior intelligence, she adds, and they face a range of difficulties, including reading, writing, spelling, and/or math. Their struggles can also include memory problems, expressive and receptive language difficulties, poor concentration, direction, and lack of organizational skills.

The Cambridge curriculum employs the Wilson Reading System, Orton-Gillingham, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, Making Math Real™, and other multi-sensory modalities, which are widely recognized as the leading methods for teaching children with language-based learning differences.

“Our program is also designed to capitalize on each child’s unique strengths, aptitudes, and interests, while remediating weaknesses,” says Ms. Peters.

Consistency is emphasized, she adds, and “on a daily basis, across the curriculum, students practice, utilize, and reinforce research-based learning tools to internalize these powerful strategies for life.”

Computer literacy is taught throughout the curriculum, using state-of-the-art technology, such as a SMART BOARD™ in every classroom and laptop computers for students at all levels.

“Also, iPad Technology is incorporated into our middle school curriculum to assist with organization and executive function skills,” notes Ms. Peters.

Full Complement

Because of the small class size, teachers are closely involved with each child’s progress, and interact with the students continually, focusing on each child’s strengths and learning needs.

In addition, a full complement of after-school activities features sports, such as soccer, cross-country and track, boys and girls basketball, and lacrosse, including athletic competition with other schools in the area.

Cambridge students are also involved in community service, including projects with the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank “Students Change Hunger” program, among others.

From the initial 10 students in 2001, Cambridge School now has an enrollment of 125, with students coming from the Princeton/Pennington area and well beyond, including northern New Jersey, the shore, and Pennsylvania.

An important focus of the school has been to prepare the students for academic success in other schools when they have graduated from Cambridge after eighth (now ninth grade). With the addition of 10th, 11th, and 12th grades, remaining at Cambridge will now be an option.

It is clearly a happy learning environment. The school itself is visually attractive, emphasizing light with lots of windows, featuring the high-ceilinged arts center, and a fully-operational gym.

Variety of Activities

On a recent afternoon, this visitor witnessed students at all levels engaged and interested in a variety of activities, from music sessions with faculty from the Conservatory at Westminster Choir College, to fifth graders working on a project in conjunction with Princeton University students, to eighth graders rehearsing scenes for a play.

“The students here are wonderful,” says Ms. Peters. “They want to learn, and we want to continue to help as many students as possible. I also feel tremendously blessed to have had James and Melody helping me from the beginning of the school.”

Cambridge School makes a difference in the lives of its students today and into the future. Graduates have gone on to successful academic careers in many other schools and colleges.

And the students are mindful of the school’s impact on their lives. Ms. Peters recently received a letter from a former student, currently a senior at The Pennington School, who has received early acceptance to Lafayette College. He expressed his gratitude for his educational experience at Cambridge.

Excerpts from the letter include: “No words can describe my gratitude for my having been able to attend Cambridge and for you to believe in me. You and Mr. Peters not only gave me a dynamic education, you gave me a future!

“If it was not for Cambridge, I might be doing exactly what my second grade teacher in public school told my mom: stocking shelves at the grocery store and dropping out of high school. But that is far from where I am going. Going from not being able to read coming into Cambridge to now being inducted into Pennington’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society is a stark difference.

“You have shown me that as long as I am willing to work hard, there is nothing I cannot do because I am dyslexic. You believed in me when everyone else did not.”

Indeed, as Ms. Maskell emphasizes, “At Cambridge, we change lives.”

The school will hold an open house on February 11. It will also offer opportunities in its four-week summer program this year to the general public.

For further information on admission and tuition, call (609) 730-9553 or consult the website: www.thecambridgeschool.org.


January 21, 2015
NEW LOOK: “The advantage of the showroom is the opportunity to display everything so that people can see the items firsthand. Clients enjoy meeting me here now, and browsing through the collection.” Interior decorator Iris Houlihan, owner of Iris Interiors, the design firm, is shown by a selection of charming items in her new showroom.

NEW LOOK: “The advantage of the showroom is the opportunity to display everything so that people can see the items firsthand. Clients enjoy meeting me here now, and browsing through the collection.” Interior decorator Iris Houlihan, owner of Iris Interiors, the design firm, is shown by a selection of charming items in her new showroom.

“I love the unique items I find. It gives me such joy when I discover these things!”

Iris Houlihan, certified interior decorator and owner of of Iris Interiors LLC design firm, is delighted to have a new showroom to display her wonderfully eclectic selection of treasures.

Opened in October, and sharing space with Yellow Finch Antiques at 78 Main Street in Flemington, this is an additional location to her office in Hillsborough.

“This space became available, and I had always wanted to have a showroom so that clients could see what I have,” explains Ms. Houlihan. “I offer unique items that are not found in many stores. I find them all over the U.S., including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and San Francisco. I go to the High Point furnishings trade show in North Carolina to see the latest trends, and I can offer a variety of unusual merchandise. I always look for something unique and high quality, reclaimed, and preferably, American-made.”

Eclectic Array

The new showroom offers an eclectic array of custom window treatments and pillows, upholstery, home decor items, furnishings, and appealing miscellany.

Its location on Flemington’s Main Street, which is historically significant (nearby is the court house where the Lindbergh trial was held) focuses nicely with Ms. Houlihan’s emphasis on vintage items.

“The historic location is the perfect fit because I’m sentimental at heart, and I mix past and present in my designs,” points out Ms. Houlihan. “I use clients’ old family treasures, existing pieces that evoke fond memories, or antiques and vintage items to create a unique space. The pieces in the showroom embody my approach, and each carries its own special story.”

Clients are discovering a variety of intriguing items, including a striking antique chandelier from Bordentown, which will certainly be the highlight of a design in a dining room or living room.

A painted sideboard, made of reclaimed wood, is extremely impressive, and illustrates Ms. Houlihan’s emphasis on using reclaimed items. “Reclaimed pieces are very important,” she points out. “For example, we have wonderful candle holders that have been repurposed from old solid wood columns. All of these pieces will be available when the opportunity presents itself for the right person. Some things definitely speak to one’s personality.

“Some reclaimed items have a very rustic look,” she continues.“I love animals, and with these rustic finishes, it doesn’t matter if the owner has pets, and if, for example, a cat jumps up on the piece or even scratches it. It can just give it more character!”

Industrial Look

A series of colorful bowls are made of coconut shells; and beautiful coasters, handmade by artisans in Peru, using vintage glass, feature reverse painting, with many lovely designs.

Smaller items, including an assortment of picture frames in many styles and sizes, have been very popular with customers. “The industrial look is also favored,” reports Ms. Houlihan. “For example, a small ‘cricket’ is made of reclaimed metal from a factory. It is charming, and can be nicely used as a place card holder.”

Lovely custom-made dried flower arrangements will add luster to holiday home decor, as will Ms. Houlihan’s collection of accent pillows in many designs and colors, including a number featuring an equestrian motif.

“Pillows can really change a room,” she points out. “There are two things you can do to change a room that give it the most impact. First, paintings and artwork, and second, pillows. Changing something in the room adds great interest. You can even change the pillows seasonally for a whole new look.”

The showroom’s selection of artwork features a group of very colorful collages of animals, including horses. In addition, an eye-catching collage “Rooftops” from Reykjavik, Iceland in fabulous colors will captivate many customers.

Window treatments are a specialty for Ms. Houlihan, and there is a display of high quality silk draperies, and gorgeous sheers from Italy. Honeycomb shades are also displayed and feature automatic control. A number of sample books are available for customers’ convenience.

Story and Space

Ms. Houlihan continues her active schedule of interior design, and now having the showroom enables her to show clients possibilities in one place.

“As a designer, I am very flexible,” she notes. “I don’t mind mixing low and high end. I am very, very in tune with my clients. I make the design according to their space and their story. And, I create stories for my clients through my interior designs. My approach is about listening to and giving clients what they want, and then, ultimately, giving them more than they want.

“From a design standpoint, I start with texture and architectural details — for example, moldings, windows, doors. Layering is what makes a room interesting, and color is one layer; architectural detail is another.”

Budget is a starting point, of course, and Ms. Houlihan notes that many clients choose to do a design over time, focusing on one room and then moving on to another later.

“I am there to be their advocate and partner,” she observes. “The client will say ‘I have X amount of money’, and I’ll say ‘you can do this, this, and this.’ I have wonderful clients, and I am very flexible for them. I always try to accommodate their appointment schedule.”

Her clients come from all over the Princeton area, as well as from Philadelphia and even farther away. Many are referred by current and former clients.

In addition to her regular design work, Ms. Houlihan takes on projects for the Make A Wish Foundation of New Jersey. She does room makeovers for children in the program.

Items in the Flemington showroom cover a very wide price range, from $10 up to $3,000, and everything in between. In addition, a number of items are on consignment.

Hours are Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and by appointment. (908) 265-7688. Website: www.iris-interiors.com.

January 7, 2015
HYATT HOSPITALITY: “Our main focus is bringing humanity back to hotel hospitality. We provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s all about how you make people feel.” Dianne Pepe, CHS, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency Princeton, is shown in the hotel’s reception area.

HYATT HOSPITALITY: “Our main focus is bringing humanity back to hotel hospitality. We provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s all about how you make people feel.” Dianne Pepe, CHS, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency Princeton, is shown in the hotel’s reception area.

Dianne Pepe, CHS, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency Princeton, is enthusiastic about the hotel’s new look and friendly hospitality.

“We completed a $20 million renovation last January, and my experience during the past year being part of restoring the hotel has been wonderful. It’s my passion because I wanted to be a part of restoring it to its proper status as the number one hotel in Princeton!

“We are the largest hotel in Princeton, and by virtue of the renovation, the newest,” continues Ms. Pepe. “We offer an eclectic mix of dedicated and flexible meeting space, and we have the largest guest rooms in the area. We also have the largest lounge and the fastest Wi-Fi on the market at 100 megabites in our meeting space.”

Ms. Pepe began her career at the Hyatt 20 years ago, then moved onto other hotels, as well as serving most recently as director of sales and marketing at the Milennium Broadway in New York City. “This was my first hotel,” she says, smiling, “and now it is wonderful to be back.”

Numerous Changes

During the renovation, numerous changes have been incorporated into the physical setting, and in particular, the meeting space has been significantly expanded. “We have added 11 new meeting rooms, all with natural light and 10-foot ceilings,” she reports. “Overall, there are 30 high tech meeting rooms with A/V and Wi-Fi, available for events. Corporate events can have as many as 350 people attending, with 75 to 125 a typical number.

“There are a lot of leadership training sessions during the corporate events, and we will provide catering. This can include continental breakfast, lunch in the banquet room, and late afternoon snack. Corporate guests are from all over the world, and often spend a few days with us.”

In addition to the business-focused meetings, other groups, including historical organizations, select the Hyatt as their hotel of choice while exploring areas in and  around Princeton.

“We recently had 1200 people with a travel company whose focus was history,” says Ms. Pepe. “Of course, Princeton is a terrific place for history — especially the American Revolution era. There is the Princeton Battlefield, George Washington’s headquarters in Rocky Hill, Washington’s Crossing, etc. This area is an important part of the history of the U.S., and one of my favorite things is to talk with guests about the history of Princeton.”

The Hyatt is also noted as a venue for weddings and galas, she adds. “Wedding receptions are a huge part of our business. We are a complete wedding venue, and typically, we have anywhere from 150 to 200 guests, with 400 to 600 at ethnic weddings. To plan a wedding with us, it’s best to book 12 to 18 months ahead.

“We are also the location for most of the galas and fund-raising events in the area, including the Eden Institute, Catholic Charities, and St. Francis Hospital. In addition, we are a big prom headquarters, hosting six to eight proms a year. Political functions are also often held here.”

Around the World

Ms. Pepe notes that the hotel is the choice of many guests who attend their Princeton University reunions, and it has a strong association with the Princeton University sports program.

Since it opened in 1983 at 102 Carnegie Center, the Hyatt Regency Princeton has welcomed guests from around the world. Its 330 guest rooms are spacious, with all the amenities, including TV, wireless internet access, shower/tub combinations, complimentary toiletries, hair dryers, complimentary newspapers, etc.

Other amenities include 24-hour front desk service, indoor heated swimming pool, business center, fitness center, two outdoor tennis courts, running and biking paths around the hotel, gift shop, and dry cleaning/laundry service. In addition, the hotel provides complimentary shuttle service into Princeton.

It has also instituted an optional ‘Green Plan”, notes Ms. Pepe. “If guests wish, they can re-use their towels and sheets and not have fresh ones every day. It helps to reduce over-use of detergents and waste of water. It is completely optional. There is a card in every bathroom that guests can use to indicate their preference. Many guests are now selecting the green program.”

The renovation included a new look to the hotel’s signature atrium lobby, with lounge, waterfalls, and pond (featuring 50 koi in strikingly beautiful colors). Guests can relax and gather here to sip a specialty cocktail during Happy Hour, which also includes appetizer specialties.

For serious dining, the hotel’s new dining room, the “Artisan Kitchen,” offers Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, described as “Food, Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served.”

Food Options

“It’s farm-to-table,” explains Ms. Pepe. “Our menu features food from natural, local, and sustainable sources. We have food options that are good for guests, good for the community, and good for the planet. We also have a chef with a lot of new energy!”

Private dining rooms and room service are also available, and there is a “Bed & Breakfast” special available, as well.

The Hyatt Regency is also unique in the area in offering on-site entertainment, with its Catch A Rising Star Comedy Club.

Ms. Pepe is very proud of the hotel’s staff, many of whom have been employees since it opened. “At the end of the day, it’s the people who set you apart. The staff at the hotel is the best staff ever. They are genuinely caring people who welcome our guests. I can teach someone to work a computer system or how to check in guests, but you can’t teach someone to care. And all our staff truly cares about the guests.”

This emphasis on hospitality is very important at the hotel, she points out. “We are highly personalized hospitality professionals. It’s a more informal age today, but there is still an elegance to a hotel. From the time I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to work in the hotel business. I had had lunch in the Waldorf Astoria in New York with my aunt, and it was so special. I never forgot it. Now, in a graceless age, we are trying to provide our guests with an unforgettable experience.”

A lot of work, attention to detail, and constant focus are needed to make that happen, she adds. “The challenge is to exceed people’s expectations. Meeting them is not enough. We are always looking to go beyond and thinking ahead. You cannot sit back on your laurels. You must adapt to change, and we continually have to reinvent ourselves.”

Listening to guests’ comments is part of that, she notes. “We always pay attention to our customers’ suggestions. It might be something as simple as the inclusion of a sleeping mask in a room.”

The Hyatt is very competitively priced, she adds, and it also offers a variety of promotions and specials. “We offer discounts for business guests who stay two nights, and we recognize a company of the month and offer it discounted rates. We are focused on being responsible corporate citizens.

“We also advise guests about all the opportunities in Princeton. We are part of the cultural traditions and ambiance of the Princeton community, including supporting McCarter Theater. We participate in the events in town, and are involved in the Princeton and New Jersey Chambers of Commerce and other organizations.”

Ms. Pepe adds that she is proud to be part of the Hyatt Regency Princeton operation. “I love my job, and I love what I do. If you make your passion your vocation, you will never work a day in your life!”

Check in time at the hotel is 3 p.m., check out time is noon. (609) 987-1234. Website: www.princeton.hyatt.com.

December 24, 2014
FRESH FLAVORS: “I bake to order in small batches and everything is as fresh as possible. Pies are my specialty, but I also bake a variety of other goodies.” Jan Carson, chef and owner of LilliPies, is shown with a box of 12 classic single serving pies.

FRESH FLAVORS: “I bake to order in small batches and everything is as fresh as possible. Pies are my specialty, but I also bake a variety of other goodies.” Jan Carson, chef and owner of LilliPies, is shown with a box of 12 classic single serving pies.

Everyone loves apple pie! And everyone is talking about LilliPies, the baked-to-order pastries that come in assorted flavors (apple and more!), sizes, and specialties.

Chef/owner Jen Carson operates LilliPies, formerly known as Jen’s Cakes & Pastries, at The Cucina, located in the rear of the Princeton North Shopping Center at 1225 State Road.

“The Cucina is a licensed shared commercial kitchen,” explains Ms. Carson. “Currently, there are five tenants representing five different companies, and each focuses on a different food product.”

Formerly an elementary school teacher, with a master’s degree in education, Ms. Carson grew up in northern New Jersey in a big family where cooking was a major event.


“I came from a big Italian family,” she reports. “My mother was a great cook, and she especially liked to bake pies — always from scratch. I learned most of what I know about baking from her.”

After she married and had her first child, Ms. Carson left teaching, and as she recalls, “My husband gave me a cake-decorating course, and I fell in love with pastries.”

In 2004, the Carsons moved to Princeton. “This was after the birth of our third child, and I had stopped teaching. I thought I needed to do something creative for myself.”

She enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where she majored in international bread baking and restaurant management. After graduating, she began concentrating on baking pies and initially took them and other baked goods to farmers markets in the area, including Princeton, West Windsor, and Princeton Forrestal Village. Her products were also featured at Small World Coffee in Princeton. In addition, Ms. Carson worked as bakery manager for Brick Farm in Hopewell.

Her pastries were such a big success that she decided to expand the operation to include baked-to-order items for individuals, corporations, and organizations. She also began to feature wedding and birthday cakes. The customers appreciated the freshness and flavors of her products.

As one client notes, “Everything tastes just right. Sweet, but not too sweet, and the little pies are just the right size for an after dinner treat or with afternoon tea. And not only does everything taste good, all the pies and cakes are so appealing to the eye.”

Donut Day

The major focus is on pies, including full-size 9-inch classic, 4½ inch single serving, and mini 3½ inch versions.

“Pies are my specialty, but I also make cakes, cookies, muffins, and granola. In addition, I am a bread baker. Sometimes, there are surprises too. On National Donut Day, I used my extra cake batter to bake some donuts. They were all very popular, and people have continued to ask for them.”

Ms. Carson has many regular customers, including individuals, corporations, and organizations. She recently filled a corporate order for 60 classic pies, and she is especially busy during the holiday season. Weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, graduations, and Valentine’s Day are other important events for her business.

Ms. Carson is now known for her wedding cakes of all kinds, and that is a growing part LilliPies’ operation.

Pies, however, remain the major focus, with apple and apple/blueberry the favorites, and also strawberry/rhubarb, and pear/almond. “I bake seasonally,” she reports. “I use apples in the fall, especially Stayman winesap from Terhune Orchards. Then, when it’s berry season, I’ll include all the berry pies. I emphasize healthy, fresh ingredients, all-butter crusts, and as many local organic ingredients as possible.

“The cookies include chocolate chip, oatmeal, and the popular Cowboy Cookies with everything in them, from oatmeal and coconut to chocolate chips and more.”

In addition to filling her regular orders, Ms. Carson will bring her products to the Princeton Winter Farmers Market once a month on Thursday in the Princeton Public Library.

She also teaches a course on baking at the Culinary School of Mercer County Community College and a class on healthy eating at the John Witherspoon Middle School.

Wonderful Aroma

Eventually, Ms. Carson hopes to open a retail operation, she adds. “I am so encouraged. I have so many repeat customers, and when I have a retail location, I hope to serve breakfast and lunch and to offer my own baked bread, along with the pastries. I plan to hold baking classes too.”

Ms. Carson enjoys providing LilliPies for her many customers despite the very early morning start to what can be a long day of baking in the Cucina. “When it’s a cold morning, I’ll turn on the oven, and there is a wonderful aroma. Then, I feel comfortable with the whole production.”

Princeton is the focal point of her business, she notes, and she has not only received support from her many customers but also from other chefs and businesses in town.

“I have really been surprised at how much support I’ve gotten from the community. Princeton is a special place. We’re right near the farm land, which surrounds us, and then there is education and art everywhere. You can meet the most interesting people you will ever know in your life at a dinner party here.”

Prices for the pies include $22 for a 9 inch pie; $27 for a dozen of the classic 4½ inch pies; $15 for a dozen of the mini pies; $10 for a bag of cranberry-almond granola; $2.50 for a granola bar; and $10 for a hot chocolate mix (bittersweet or white).

The pies and other baked goods are delivered free of charge in Princeton, or can be picked up at the Cucina location.

To place an order, call (609) 240-7738, or email jen@lillipies.com. Website: http://lillipies.com

FAMILY FOCUS: “Many bed and breakfasts in the area don’t have a lot of property. We have 21-plus acres of land, and people enjoy taking walks and exploring the beauty of the natural setting.” Tim Luccaro (left) is proud of Holly Hedge, his family’s bed and breakfast inn and event venue near New Hope, Pa. He is shown with his brother, Ben and mother and father, Amy and Joe.

FAMILY FOCUS: “Many bed and breakfasts in the area don’t have a lot of property. We have 21-plus acres of land, and people enjoy taking walks and exploring the beauty of the natural setting.” Tim Luccaro (left) is proud of Holly Hedge, his family’s bed and breakfast inn and event venue near New Hope, Pa. He is shown with his brother, Ben and mother and father, Amy and Joe.

History is in evidence at Holly Hedge, the bed and breakfast inn and event venue just outside of New Hope.

“The main building dates to the late 1700s, when it was a working farm,” explains Holly Hedge business manager Tim Luccaro. “This is one of the few original farmhouses in the area. We grow herbs, tomatoes, fruit (including lots of berries) on our property, and we include these in our breakfasts.”

Over the years the homestead experienced several transformations: farm, private residence, school for dyslexic students, summer camp for music and the arts, and bed and breakfast establishment.

Joe and Amy Luccaro purchased Holly Hedge in 1993, with plans to continue it as a bed and breakfast operation. They had first visited New Hope on their honeymoon in 1971, and a year later moved to Buck County.

Destination Place

“They knew from the moment they came that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives here,” says their son Tim Luccaro. “When they purchased Holly Hedge, initially the idea was to maintain it as a bed and breakfast, and then develop the catering business. Over the years, we have become a destination place for weddings, and this is now the major part of our business.”

The wedding season is March through November, he adds, and Holly Hedge is currently booked through 2015 for weekend weddings.

The schedule for midweek weddings is more flexible, and two to three months notice is recommended. Elopements are even more flexible, and Mr. Lucarro suggests one week’s notice, if possible. “We have had couples married here who have eloped, and we can accommodate anyone’s choice!”

And if the choice is full-scale and over the top, that is certainly no problem for Holly Hedge, which has a complete catering operation, including two full-time catering chefs, a wedding planner, and an event coordinator.

All sizes of weddings, from 30 guests to 200, take place at the estate, and whether the bride and groom opt for an outdoor cocktail party in the garden or a formal sit down dinner inside, the Holly Hedge setting will be memorable for the wedding party and guests. “We have people who got married here and come back for their anniversaries, and they bring their children back too,” reports Mr. Luccaro.

Anniversaries, holiday parties, and corporate events are also an important part of the business. “We have a lot of corporate events with companies from Princeton and northern New Jersey, including a lot of pharmaceutical companies. These events are held during the week, not on the weekend,” he points out.

Corporate Retreats

The Holly Hedge certified event planner will work with the company to customize strategic planning, team building, staff celebrations, or corporate retreats. In addition, the Holly Hedge staff will organize other activities in the area, such as spa treatments, hiking, kayaking, biking, historical society tours, wine tastings, etc.

The estate has on-site wi-fi throughout the property, private rooms, and multiple conference space options.

Holly Hedge is also very busy as a popular bed and breakfast in the area. It offers 15 guest rooms in three restored buildings. Both standard rooms and grand suites are available. The latter can accommodate up to six guests, and offers full en suite kitchen. All the rooms have private bathrooms, cable television, and complimentary wi-fi.

Holly Hedge provides a full service breakfast on weekends, and Continental breakfast during the week. The in-house bakery prepares many of the breads and confections that are available every morning, and guests enjoy the home-grown and homemade fruit preserves and syrup tapped from the estate’s own sugar maples.

“We include seasonal fruits grown on our property, and we also get local produce in the area, as much as possible,” explains Mr. Luccaro. “Our breakfast chef cooks weekend breakfasts to order, with eggs, pancakes, French toast, and other specialties included.”

Bed and breakfast guests arrive from overseas, all over the U.S., as well as Bucks County, he reports, and they include many repeats. “We have established a very good reputation. We have lots of word-of-mouth, and people also find us on our website.”

Tuning Out

Enjoying the natural beauty of the Holly Hedge estate is a pleasure for many of the guests, and many like to take walks on the property, adds Mr. Luccaro. “We are developing an arboretum, and a lot of guests enjoy turning off their electronic devices and just relaxing in the natural setting. On the other hand, if they want the phone on, we have wi-fi and all the technological necessities.”

An important part of the Holly Hedge focus is its increasing adoption of environmentally-friendly practices.

“We take our stewardship of the estate, its land, and its history seriously,” says Mr. Luccaro. “The maintenance and restoration of our historic stone buildings, walls, and barn, using traditional mason techniques, has helped us retain the rustic charm of the property. There has been a big change since my brother Ben has been involved. As property manager and being in charge of architectural restoration, he oversees this important work. He is a mason and does the stonework, which requires continual maintenance.”

“We are working on a number of ways to make the estate more environmentally friendly,” explains Ben Luccaro. “We have solar panels outside in the fields, and we are able to produce 20 percent of the electricity we use this way. We are also looking into thermal heating.

“Recycling is very important here,” he continues. “We recycle glass, plastic, and paper, and also cooking oil, which is then turned into bio-diesel fuel for cars. We also save a lot of food scraps for farmers to give to their pigs, and we do a lot of composting. In addition, we save water by collecting rain water in barrels. Then, we use that to water our vegetables.”

“We try to be as energy-efficient as we can,” adds Tim Luccaro. “We use energy-efficient appliances, and we repurpose old things on our property. For example, we lost a lot of trees during the storm Sandy, and we used the wood for arbors and railings.

Responsible Stewards

“We also try to educate our guests about our environmentally friendly practices. They become participants in our effort toward sustainability. We have between 10,000 and 20,000 guests each year. Sustainability isn’t a buzz word. It has always been a core principle of our business, and it helps us to ensure that we are living up to our obligations as responsible stewards of our beautiful estate.”

Mr. Luccaro, who recently returned from a three year stay in Afghanistan, working with the U.S. government’s Institute of Peace, especially enjoys being back at Holly Hedge. “Since I was away for a long time, now I enjoy spending time with my family and being in this unique part of the world, where we were fortunate to grow up.

“We look forward to continuing our family tradition, and we see this as a new chapter, as our parents move toward retirement. It is an opportunity for Ben and me to build on their legacy and stewardship and to create a new path for the next generation to enjoy. Our clientele is so open and receptive to our unique aesthetic and our environmental consciousness and awareness, to the historical nature of our property, and also to the artwork we offer from local sculptors and painters. We really try to celebrate the area, and we let guests know about all the opportunities and activities in New Hope and the area.”

Ben Luccaro is equally enthusiastic about Holly Hedge and the chance to be part of this special family business. “I love working with my family here, and also with the staff, which is really like family too. I feel I get a chance to contribute something important. We have to put on an event all the time and constantly maintain the property. There is tremendous attention to detail. And I look forward to continuing the environmental projects we are doing. I love this place!”

Holly Hedge can be reached at (215) 862-3136. Website: www.hollyhedge.com.

December 17, 2014
EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE: “People have always loved jewelry. It always has a story and sentiment, and it can be passed down through the generations. It has memory.” MaryBeth Kroh, GG, ICGA (left) and Laura Fiabane, GG, AJA, RJ, owners of Fiabane & Kroh, enjoy educating clients about the quality and value of their jewelry.

EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE: “People have always loved jewelry. It always has a story and sentiment, and it can be passed down through the generations. It has memory.” MaryBeth Kroh, GG, ICGA (left) and Laura Fiabane, GG, AJA, RJ, owners of Fiabane & Kroh, enjoy educating clients about the quality and value of their jewelry.

It is very personal, and its value can be measured on many levels. Perhaps it is a treasured piece passed down from a great-grandmother, or a specially-designed engagement ring just presented to the bride-to-be, or a gorgeous strand of black South Sea pearls — unique and rare.

Whatever the piece, Fiabane & Kroh Fine Jewelry Appraisals and Consulting can help clients establish the market and insurance value.

In addition to appraisal, the firm offers new jewelry design and re-design of older and antique pieces. Further, it provides single and multi-day programs and training sessions for retailers and wholesalers.

Owners Laura Fiabane, GG, AJA, RJ and MaryBeth Kroh, GG, ICGA are experts in jewelry design and appraisal. Ms. Kroh has 35 years experience in the jewelry business. Originally from Kansas, she attended the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in California. After receiving her Graduate Gemologist degree, she worked with J.E. Caldwell in Philadelphia, and then returned to California to serve at GIA as a resident diamond instructor.

“Rising Star”

Ms. Kroh later returned to the east coast, where she worked for 17 years at Hamilton Jewelers. Earning a degree as a CGA (Certified Gemologist Appraiser), she served as senior appraiser and director of training at Hamilton.

It was there that she met Lauren Fiabane. A Princeton native, Ms. Fiabane also worked at Hamilton Jewelers. She later moved to California to attend GIA, where she received her graduate gemologist and Applied Jewelry Artist diplomas. In 2009, she founded her own jewelry design business, and she was recognized by JCK (Jewelers Circular Keystone) as a “Rising Star,” an up and coming designer in 2010 and by the World Gold Council. The creation of Fiabane & Kroh, headquartered in Burlington, brought her back to the east coast in 2012.

Fiabane & Kroh can provide many services for clients, points out Ms. Kroh. “I have a specialty in antique and estate jewelry. People come to us if they want to have their jewelry insured, or they may wish to liquidate it, or they may just want to know its market value.”

Many factors are involved in determining the value of a piece of jewelry, she adds. “The quality, style, cut, color, weight, and current demand are all part of the evaluation. Every appraisal report is well-researched and documented, and conforms to the standards put forth by the American Society of Appraisers, the American Gemological Society as well as the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.

“I also broker the jewelry,” continues Ms. Kroh. “There is a network of the gemological community. We have clients all over the U.S., and I always keep an eye out for pieces that clients are looking for.”

Fiabane & Kroh offers a virtual vault on-line, which includes pictures and details of the pieces available for purchase.

Best Thing

Ms. Fiabane, who specializes in design, particularly enjoys the creativity involved in fashioning unique pieces for clients. “The best thing is when someone brings in an inherited piece that they have a sentimental attachment for, but they’d like it to have a new look. I can re-imagine it and transform it into something with even more sentiment.

“For example, when a client brings in a piece and says, ‘this was my grandmother’s’, I can re-design it, and not only does it give new life to the piece, but often new life to the relationship. I like to create things that are timeless, yet focus on the personality of the person and how that person is unique. I try to find out about the person’s life-style, their likes and tastes, etc. Then, I can create a custom design. That is a beautiful challenge.”

Diamonds are always in demand, adds Ms. Kroh, and pearls continue to be sought-after. “There are definitely pearl people. Pearls are timeless in their appeal.”

In addition, they offer a variety of new options, notes Ms. Fiabane. “The pearl market has shifted a bit. They can be edgier, more dramatic. For example, we have Tahitian pearls that are faceted, and they actually sparkle at night.

Big and Dramatic

“With jewelry in general, big dramatic pieces are popular, and important names, such as Tiffany and Cartier are always in demand.”

Both Ms. Fiabane and Ms. Kroh enjoy educating clients and helping them to
understand what is involved in creating beautiful jewelry. “You want to educate the clients and help them to understand the piece. We want to share our knowledge with them, and we can help clients in a number of ways. For example, sometimes people are liquidating their jewelry because they need the money. First, we define the value of each piece. Then, our goal is to offer our clients the best possible return.”

Ms. Fiabane is currently working toward her certificate as an independent certified gemological appraiser with the American Gem Society, and both she and Ms. Kroh often travel to gemological events and conferences, continuing to keep up-to-date with the latest information and advances. Ms. Kroh is frequently a speaker at such events.

They are very proud of having established Fiabane & Kroh as a respected ICGA (AGS) firm. “With our skill level, our gemological laboratory, and our business ability, we have achieved our goal. We believe that in order to appreciate, you must first understand. With a foundation built on time-honored jewelry practices and knowledge of current economic climates, we aim to inform and inspire with an innovative approach. And we are passionate about what we do!”

(609) 313-3289. Website: www.fiabaneandkroh.com.

December 10, 2014
FASHIONABLE FOOTWEAR: “We carry high-end lines for men and women. These are not found in department stores, and we will also special order for customers. They appreciate the lines we carry and the service we offer,” says Robert ­Sackowitz (left), partner and manager of The Shoe Buckle in Hightstown. He is shown with his father, who is owner of the store.

FASHIONABLE FOOTWEAR: “We carry high-end lines for men and women. These are not found in department stores, and we will also special order for customers. They appreciate the lines we carry and the service we offer,” says Robert ­Sackowitz (left), partner and manager of The Shoe Buckle in Hightstown. He is shown with his father, who is owner of the store.

Fine footwear for men and women, with a special focus on ladies shoes, is featured at The Shoe Buckle, located at 106 Mercer Street in Hightstown. This long-time popular store has a rich history, and is a unique family business.

It was opened in 1970 by Harry and Ruth Sackowitz, reports current partner and manager Robert Sackowitz.

“I’m the third generation in the family to be part of the store. My grandparents founded it, and my father Stuart is the owner now. My grandmother had a six and a half narrow shoe size, and it was very hard to fit. She wanted to open a shoe store, and my grandfather, who was a chicken farmer, agreed. She named the store The Shoe Buckle.

“Then, she had an opportunity to teach first grade, which she wanted to do, and so my grandfather gave up chicken farming, and ran the shoe store.”

High Quality

It started out as a full-service store with shoes for the entire family, and has been a popular Hightstown mainstay ever since. Today, the focus is on upscale, high quality men’s and women’s shoes, including lines from Mephisto, SAS (a comfort line made in the U.S.), New Balance (U.S.), and specifically for women, Arche, Pas de Rouge, Thierry Rabotin (all French companies), BeautiFeel from Israel, and Agua Italia from Italy

“These are high quality, stylish shoes that you won’t find everywhere,” explains Robert Sackowitz. “My customers will spend the money for something different — style, color, and comfort. They like it if it is different.

“Color is very big today,” he continues. “Reds, orange, blue, navy, as well as brown and black. We have special suedes that have been sprayed to be rain-resistant, and while comfort is very important today, it can’t just be ‘vanilla’ comfort. You have to have flair and style. Some panache!”

Customers like variety too, he adds. Women’s styles are no longer dictated. It’s very individual. “People like everything. All styles. Round toes, square, and pointed. It’s all out there. Flats are very popular today, and we have a great selection.”

Fashion Statement

Boots are a fashion statement these days, and are especially favored in fall and winter. The selection includes a big variety — from low ankle styles to very tall boots. Water-resistant, they vary from casual to dress.

Fit is crucial at The Shoe Buckle. Customers can count on getting a shoe that fits their foot, emphasizes Mr. Sackowitz. “We carry sizes five to 11 in medium, wide, and extra wide for women, and seven to 13 in medium, wide, and extra wide for men. We always measure a customer’s foot, and shoes can also be adjusted to fit. Podiatrists often refer people to us, and we have two certified pedorthists available. With 20,000 shoes in stock, we have something for everyone.”

Mr. Sackowitz has a distinct sense of pride in being part of this successful family business. “I have learned a lot from my father and grandfather,” he observes. “My father is very focused on the business side, and I learned that from him. I Iearned about customers from my grandfather: how to treat a customer, how to make someone a customer, and how to keep a customer.

“My grandfather was not just my grandfather; he was my best friend. Now that I have a new baby, a son — Chase Harry — I want to have that kind of relationship with him, and pass on what I have learned to my son.”

Special Relationships

The store offers an attractive display, as well as ample room to sit down, try on shoes, and walk around. Customers will also find a selection of socks, handbags, evening bags, and accessories, such as shoe polish.

“I love the interaction with the customers,” says Mr. Sackowitz. “They come from all over the area, including Princeton, and also from as far away as 30 miles. Many have come since the store began, and we have special relationships with them; there are different generations from the same family.

“They come for our high quality footwear, the lines we carry, and the service,” he continues. “Some even buy five or 10 pairs at a time! I continually go to all the shoe shows to be up-to-date, and I am very proud of what we do. We also have the greatest team, a really great staff, and we do whatever we can to satisfy our customers. In addition, we have special events and promotions, and twice-a-year sales, including ‘Buy one, get one’ (buy one pair, get one free).”

The Shoe Buckle is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, Saturday 10 to 8, Sunday noon to 5. (609) 448-7895.

Website: www.theshoebuckle.com.

FRESH FLAVORS: “Jammin’ Crêpes is a celebration of our local regional flavors wrapped in a crêpe with an ever-changing menu that highlights the very best local ingredients at their peak of freshness.” Owners (from left to right) Kim Rizk, Amin Rizk, and Kathy Klockenbrink, are enthusiastic about their new restaurant, specializing in homemade crêpes.

FRESH FLAVORS: “Jammin’ Crêpes is a celebration of our local regional flavors wrapped in a crêpe with an ever-changing menu that highlights the very best local ingredients at their peak of freshness.” Owners (from left to right) Kim Rizk, Amin Rizk, and Kathy Klockenbrink, are enthusiastic about their new restaurant, specializing in homemade crêpes.

Customers are singing the praises of Jammin’Crêpes, the new restaurant at 20 Chambers Street (entrance on Nassau Street).

Just opened in October, the restaurant/cafe is already attracting a loyal clientele. Hungry customers can’t wait for a tasty breakfast or lunch crêpe, followed by a late afternoon sweet crêpe, perhaps enhanced by one of the cafe’s special micro-batch seasonal jams.

“Our main focus is made to-order sweet and savory crêpes, filled with seasonal produce and ingredients from regional farms and food artisans, supplemented by Fair Trade and organic ingredients whenever possible.” note owners Kim and Amin Rizk and Kathy Klockenbrink.

The idea for the restaurant was prompted by their successful introduction of the crêpes to several farm markets in the area, including Princeton and West Windsor, over the past few years. “We emphasized good fresh food all made to order, as well as our homemade jams and pickles. The farm markets were a very good showcase for us,” says Kim Rizk.

Market Environment

Adds Amin Rizk, who handles the marketing and administrative end of the business, “The farmers market was a way to test our concept before bringing it to brick and mortar.”

And the crêpes became so popular that expanding into a space of their own was indeed the next logical step. “Also,” says Ms. Rizk, “We felt, as Princeton residents, we wanted to share our products here with the community. We feel this is like a cafe, and we also wanted to replicate a market environment. We thought this would be like real street food for people in a very informal and comfortable setting.”

In addition to crêpes, the restaurant will offer a daily selection of seasonal soups and salads, all freshly made, and a variety of home-baked goods. There is also an assortment of homemade jams, preserved by Ms. Rizk, and homemade pickles. Ms. Rizk is a master food preserver, having received her certificate through Cornell University Extension.

Casual eat-in and take-out choices are available for breakfast, lunch, and late afternoon. Communal seating is offered for 45 diners inside and 15 outside.

The down-to-earth interior — much like a farmhouse environment — is very appealing. In keeping with the owners’ focus on recycling and environmentally-friendly products, the tables are made of recycled New Jersey barn wood, and fun antique street signs, “Peach Street” and “Cherry Street,” are displayed. Another touch features lighting ensconced in clear Ball-type jars (those used for canning and preserving).

“We are working toward zero waste in the restaurant,” explains Ms. Rizk. “All of our take-out containers are fully compostable, and we also have a contract with Central Jersey Waste to pick up all of our food waste.”

Enthusiastic Response

The owners are delighted with the enthusiastic response of the customers, many of whom come at least once a week. “We have been so busy, more than we anticipated. We have been so well-received,” notes Kathy Klockenbrink, who co-authored a bi-lingual cookbook while living in Grenoble, France. She currently continues her profession as a speech therapist part-time in addition to keeping a full schedule at Jammin’ Crêpes.

“Crêpes are a global item. We have made thousands of crêpes, and all are made from scratch with our own recipes. I love to cook, and I like to have eating be a time to slow down.”

Patrons of Jammin’ Crêpes are doing just that! They enjoy coming in throughout the day, with many showing up for an early breakfast.

Some morning favorites include “Classic Bacon, Egg & Cheese,” with free-range egg, thick-cut smokehouse bacon, and a special blend of melted cheese; the “Cinnamon Breakfast Toasty” with browned butter, the signature cinnamon sugar, free range egg, and thick-cut smokehouse bacon with a drizzle of maple syrup. The “Skinny Pancake Special” includes spiced Jersey apples, creamy brie cheese, thick-cut smokehouse bacon, with a drizzle of maple syrup, and freshly ground black pepper.

Other breakfast specialties include “The Health Nut” featuring peanut butter with Fair Trade bananas, the signature house-baked granola and a drizzle of Jersey honey. The “Skinny Goat” includes free range egg whites and fresh goat cheese with a selection of seasonal roasted vegetables.

A very popular lunchtime favorite is “Everything’s Better With Bacon & Jam,” with thick-cut smokehouse bacon, special strawberry lavender jam, fresh baby arugula, and creamy brie. “This is a combination of sweet and savory, including our homemade jam,” report the owners.

Special Blend

“The Full Monty” offers oven-roasted turkey breast, black forest ham, free-range egg, with a special blend of melted cheese and choice of seasonal berry jams. The “Jammin’ Turkey Club,” with oven-roasted turkey breast, thick-cut smokehouse bacon, mozzarella, local greens, and a special sweet and spicy tomato jam is another favorite.

“Hammin’ Cheese Melty” offers black forest ham and Swiss cheese with honey spice pickles and mustard aioli. The “BLT Melty” features thick-cut smokehouse bacon, fresh seasonal greens, Jersey tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and seasonal aioli. “Jammin’ Chai Brie” includes chai-spiced Jersey plum jam with roasted hazelnuts, baby arugula, and creamy brie. The “Crepacopia” offers the signature Jersey sweet potato hummus, fresh apples and spinach, with toasted sunflower seeds and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

Any of the crêpes, including the sweet crêpes, can be ordered at any time of day, point out the owners. A favorite sweet crêpe is “Orchard Lemon” with the restaurant’s own micro-batch of lemons and local orchard apples cooked into a sweet and tangy lemon curd, filling a crisp crêpe. “Lemon & Lavender” is a sweet and tart treat with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a shake of the cafe’s own local organic lavender-infused sugar.

The “Toasty Joe” features browned butter and the signature Turkish coffee-infused sugar in a warm sweet crêpe. “Jammin’ Good” is a signature sweet crêpe filled with micro-batch jams made from local fruits.

Chocolate lovers will not be disappointed! “Nut-Cho-Tella” is the restaurant’s own blend of freshly-roasted hazelnuts and almonds ground into a creamy chocolate spread. “We make our own nutella,” points out Ms. Rizk. “We roast our own almonds and hazelnuts with healthy oils. This is very popular.”

“The Classic Toasty Cinnamon” crêpe features browned butter and the cafe’s signature cinnamon sugar. It can also be made with dark chocolate or local orchard spiced apples.

Freshly Baked

Kids’ choices are also available, including “Grilled Cheese Melty,” “Pizza Melty,” and the always popular “PB&J.”

All crêpes are made fresh to order, and the batters are created in-house from scratch every day.

In addition to crêpes, the cafe offers homemade soups, salads, and freshly baked cookies, pastries, and granola. “We always have a homemade seasonal soup, a house salad with organic greens and grains, and a berry vinaigrette,” says Ms. Rizk.

Beverages include Small World coffee, low-sugar Boylan sodas from New Jersey, the Princeton-based bai special drinks, and Steaz teas from Doylestown, Pa.

“95 percent of our ingredients are sourced locally,” reports Ms. Klockenbrink. The restaurant offers products from Cherry Grove Farm, Terhune Orchard, Griggstown Farm, and Sansone’s Farm Market, among other area establishments. Gluten-free batter is also available on request.

Ms. Rizk’s homemade jams and pickles are also available for sale, as is her book, Hay Day Country Market Cookbook. Ms. Rizk is also a contributing food writer for New Jersey Countryside, and she recently co-authored a new publication Farm Markets of Central New Jersey.

The owners are pleased to have this new focus for their products, notes Ms. Rizk, and they still continue to bring their crêpes to the Princeton and West Windsor farm markets.

“After three years of serving our sweet and savory crêpes at local farm markets, we are thrilled finally to have a home base to be able to share our farm fresh flavors with everyone year-round. We really wanted to be in Princeton, and we feel we are filling a need.”

They also add they are having fun. “There is so much energy here,” says Ms. Klockenbrink. “And there are fun things. For example, we use playing cards to call out the customers’ numbers when they wait for their food. Jack of Diamonds, Queen of Hearts, etc. It’s a fun degree of levity. It’s great to have a small business in town, and we are glad to be here.”

Adds Ms. Rizk: “I hope we will be a welcome part of the community for a long time to come. We’re here to make it work!”

Jammin’ Crêpes offers a price range from $4.50 to $8.95, and it is open Tuesday through Sunday from   8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hours will be expanded in the future. (609) 203-4807. Website: www.jammincrepes.com.


Something new has arrived at the Chelsea Crimpers Salon at 44 Spring street, and customers are loving it! An adorable children’s boutique fits snugly in a special section of the popular salon.

Just opened in October, this charming addition is already attracting customers, who are delighted to find an appealing selection of clothes and gifts for newborns and children up to six years old.

“We have unique baby clothes, special occasion items, and gifts that you don’t see everywhere, and this was an opportunity to present the boutique in Princeton,” says owner Emily Pawlikowski, whose father, Bob Luovolo, is the proprietor of Chelsea Crimpers. “Being in the salon makes it a family operation, and the customers are enjoying that too.”

Ms. Pawlikowski is experienced in children’s retail, having worked in the field for the past eight years, including at Janie and Jack’s children store in Princeton MarketFair. She also had her own business in the area.

Popular Lines

“I’ve tried to offer a very diversified selection,” she explains, and indeed, customers will find everything from layettes and baby blankets to sweaters and dresses for little girls, outfits for boys, including coats, both informal and dress, and a variety of toys and gifts.

Popular lines, both imported and domestic, include Biscotti, Magnolia Baby, Kissy Kissy, le Top, and Sozo. Shoes and boots, and fun socks with novelty animal accents are also favorites.

The items are hard to resist: adorable onesies and layettes, some with matching caps and pants; traditional red and green velvet holiday dresses for little girls; dress and tight combinations, hand-knitted sweaters in holiday motif and ballerina design; a handmade red crocheted poncho — these are just some of the choices.

Outerwear includes buttery soft snowsuits for babies, play and dress coats for boys and girls; and a very special young boy’s herringbone jacket with velvet collar will be a wonderful surprise.

Heirloom Quality

“I really like the opportunity to dress children to look like children rather than little adults,” points out Ms. Pawlikowski.

The boutique also carries christening gowns and first communion dresses, which are not available in all children’s stores. “These are silk and cotton, and are really heirloom quality. They can be passed down in the family.”

The gifts, toys, and specialty items round out the selection. Gund and Ganz stuffed animals (including toy reindeer and gingerbread men) in assorted sizes; a fun knitted “lion” backpack; “My First Purse”, a little pocketbook, complete with pretend cell phone and compact; colorful plastic aprons and bibs; and “Animal Friends, Color By the Number” toy dog and cat with felt markers (which can be washed off and re-colored) are all on display.

Diminutive baby pillows, baby keepsake boxes, photo albums, and rattles are other choices, all in a variety of price points. Toys and animals start at $10, a layette is in the $45 range, and dress with tights $50.

Special Occasion

A grand opening sale is currently available, with a 25 percent discount on all items.

What is so incredibly appealing about a children’s store, particularly one featuring items for babies, is the sense of “newness”. All the items are new, and for the child, they will be new experiences — whether a toy, or a new dress, or special occasion item.

“Remember, a child never had this dress before or this toy before,” says Ms. Pawlikowski. “Everything is new and exciting to a small child. I always love seeing children come in, and buying for children is a happy experience. It’s all fun; the newborns are so special — and so are all the ages!”

She adds that the response has been very encouraging. Customers are coming in and leaving with a special item. “We are definitely a place grandmother’s love!” she says, with a smile. “People come in and say, ‘I’m so glad you’re here!’”

Ommie’s Mini Boutique is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (609) 924-1824.

Not many independent companies today can boast a 90-year-old history. Such firms are few and far between on the business scene, and becoming more so, as Big Box stores and chains move in on the independent owners.

Founded by Stanley and George Hutchinson, Hamilton Supply Company (later becoming Hamilton Building Supply Company) opened its doors at 65 Klockner Road in Hamilton, still its current address, in 1924. At that time, it sold masonry products, such as cement and lime. As it expanded, it began to include lumber, building materials, and coal.

In 1967, the company was sold to Jesse Coleman, Jr. and his brother Earl (who also owned the Coleman Buick dealership). Later, Earl sold his share to Jesse, and Hamilton continued to expand, adding pre-hung door manufacturing, a custom millwork shop, a commercial door division, new windows and replacement windows, and a tool rental department. There is also now another location in Newtown, Pa.

“We began to concentrate on building materials, lumber, windows, doors, and custom mouldings,” explains current president, CEO, and owner Keith Coleman, who started working at the company on weekends and after school when he was a boy. He came on full-time in 1986.

Strengths and Specialties

“One of the things I remember is that when I started in the business, there were about 14 lumber yards in Mercer County. Now, by and large, they are gone. I grew up in Clarksville in West Windsor, and my dad was a farmer before he bought the business. He just turned 89, and he is still involved. He likes to keep an eye on me!”

“Our strengths and specialties today include windows, exterior and interior doors, and custom millwork. We have a shop on site. We do a lot of custom work, including for Princeton University, and commercial work, and we work with a lot of different contractors. We are very quality-conscious.

“We are really in a unique niche,” continues Mr. Coleman. “The contractors we work with are also quality-conscious, and the Big Box stores don’t have an on-site shop, for example.”

In its mission statement, the company emphasizes three main concepts.

Create and maintain relationships with customer/partners and vendor/partners in order to achieve maximum long-term growth and value for all parties.

Reinforce client relationships through creative problem-solving, efficiency, professionalism, and a broad offering of services that cater to the individual needs of customer/partners.

Develop the industry’s best workforce by developing the potential of each associate and treating them with respect and dignity.

“We have a slogan: ‘Simplify your life,’” adds Mr. Coleman. “We are really good at taking a look at an existing situation and helping the client to get the right products so their expectations are met. There are so many options out there. The thing about our business is that we have so many different products that you need a specialist to help you with that and to understand your best option. We have specialists for cabinetry, windows, doors, decks, etc.

“And our employees on an average have about 20 years experience here. They are very knowledgeable, and they’re a great group.”

Proprietary Lines

“We are also unique in that we have proprietary lines that are not available everywhere. For example, you can’t buy Marvin Windows at Lowe’s or Home Depot. They are a very important line for us.

“We also carry Zuri® decking material, which is offered only through select distributors, and we have been chosen the exclusive distributor of Zuri® in New Jersey.”

Technological developments in recent years have greatly improved the available choices of decking materials, explains Mr. Coleman. These materials look like wood, but offer very easy maintenance.

“After scouring the U.S., I am convinced that Zuri® is the most realistic and durable. It’s part of Royal Blue Products, and they offer a 25-year warranty. We are sticklers for working with companies that are well-backed, and can honor their warranties. Also, the vast majority of our products are made in the U.S.”

He adds that Hamilton Building Supply is part of a cooperative, LMC (Lumberman Merchandising Corporation), which it joined two years ago. “Throughout the country, independent companies are members of this organization, and they combine their efforts to go to manufacturers and make deals for a better price.”

Hamilton Building Supply’s clients run the gamut, including homeowners and contractors, who are dealing with new houses, remodeling or renovating existing houses, and working on historic replicas.

Big Brand

“Princeton is our primary target market, and also some of our clients have homes elsewhere, including in Cape May and Manhattan,” points out Mr. Coleman. “We work with new homes and a lot of existing houses. The average age of houses in Princeton is 40 years, although, of course, some are much older. Everything has a life span. Exterior trim, wood siding, etc. Hardi Siding is popular now. It looks like wood, but has a cement base. It is very durable and also fire-resistant.”

Windows are a major part of the business, with double-hung and casement both popular. “Marvin is a big brand for us, and we also carry Andersen. A lot of glass is coated today, which reduces fading of items inside the house. That is pretty much standard now, and other coatings are also available. There are always new advances in window systems coming along. We carry many styles, including a wonderful Marvin window system with a built-in pleated shade. We also have the Andersen Tilt-Wash replacement window and the Andersen 400 series Tilt-Wash double-hung insert window.

“We do a lot of replacement windows for existing openings,” he continues. “The whole spectrum, from low end vinyl to very high end. Black is very popular for window frames right now. Many color options are available for windows and shutters and in many styles.

“French doors continue to be very popular,” he adds. “We manufacture our own, and also carry Tru Stile. In addition, we have Therma Tru doors and Andersen storm doors, among others. Almost all doors are assembled and pre-hung on-site, greatly reducing turn-around times.”

Kitchens are another area of expertise for Hamilton, and the cabinetry display is impressive. “Kitchens require a lot of time,” points out Mr. Coleman. “The kitchen seems to be the gathering place of the house, and it’s important to know how people use it. Do they have kids? Entertain? Cook a lot? We really cater to the homeowner and their life-style.

“Our cabinetry lines include Mouser (customized) and KraftMaid. These are classic and traditional, and also Euro-style, which is more contemporary.”

High Quality

Hamilton also offers closet organizing systems, including modular styles with hanging shelves to fit into existing closet openings.

He adds that while Hamilton focuses on high quality products, the company is mindful of a customer’s budget. “Budget is a factor, and we work with people’s budgets. Also, clients often phase in the work. Frequently, for example, they will start with the baby’s room. Also, we don’t charge for delivery, which is unusual today.

“I am thoroughly convinced that at the end of the day, we provide the best overall value and best experience when it comes to purchasing of building products and millwork items for the house. We deliver on value. So many people out there will tell you what they have, and not think about what you need.

“This is a challenging business. We deal with a lot of unique projects, and one of the things that is special about our business is that it brings joy to people. It’s a form of investment for them and a way to enjoy themselves. I am also very pleased to carry on my father’s business and continue the family tradition. That is very important to me.”

Hamilton Building Supply Company is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 4, and by appointment. (609) 587-4020. Website: www.hbsnj.com.


December 3, 2014
DECORATIVE DESIGN: “We import the finest Italian plasters and decorations,” says Antonio Ramondini, founder and owner of AR Building Technologies. He is shown with a sampling of the San Marco line of Italian plasters and decorative finishes, suitable for use on walls and ceilings.

DECORATIVE DESIGN: “We import the finest Italian plasters and decorations,” says Antonio Ramondini, founder and owner of AR Building Technologies. He is shown with a sampling of the San Marco line of Italian plasters and decorative finishes, suitable for use on walls and ceilings.

The finest Italian plasters and decorative finishes for walls and ceilings are now available in Princeton to add definition, panache, and character to your home.

These finishes, from the San Marco Group of Italy, are imported by AR Building Technologies, which recently opened in Princeton.

“We provide materials for stylish, one-of-a-kind wall and ceiling decorations, as well as the knowledge and training for their application,” explains Antonio Ramondini, AR Building Technologies founder and owner.

A native of Italy, Mr. Ramondini spent 20 years in the construction business, later living and working in London. Although he has extensive knowledge of the overall construction process, he likes to focus on interior design, renovation, and decoration. Learning his craft in Italy, a country well-known for the striking and stunning interiors of its villas, he perfected his decorative techniques while working in many of the grand houses of Tuscany, as well as in southern Italy. Precision, style, and the allure of Italian design permeate every aspect of Mr. Ramondini’s professional expertise.

Choices and Styles

“I like to deal with people,” he notes, “and I look forward to educating them about the Venetian plasters and why they are so special. I want to see the installation done properly, and I hope to see many more people enjoy having these exquisite products in their homes. We are the only importer here of the San Marco line.”

Mr. Ramondini points out that the wide range of choices and styles of the finishes guarantees that they are appropriate for any type of house — classic, traditional, modern, contemporary, elegant or rustic.

“There are so many colors — at least 60 — and different designs and textures and finishes. There can be a marble look, a more textured feel, shiny, sparkling, matte, metalic, iridescent, mosaic — the range is just unlimited.

Some, such as the waterproof Concrete Art line, and Canalgrande, and some of the lime plasters are especially suitable for the kitchen or bathroom.  There is also the Disegno line of durable and easy maintenane multi-layer resin finishes for floors, which are also a part of the overall AR Building Technologies projects.

He adds that for design purposes “one wall can be an accent, with a different finish and color. Lighting can also make a difference to the look of the finish, and the size of the room can be a consideration regarding the type of finish chosen.”

Mr. Ramondini points out that the San Marco Group products are environmentally-friendly and guarantee the absence of harmful emissions. “Our products are all water-based, and use universal tinting colorants.”

Focusing on both residential and commercial projects, he often works with architects and interior designers, as well as home and building owners. He does not install the plasters and finishes himself, but he recommends appropriate and skilled contractors for the work. A typical job can take one or two days, depending on the size and the materials chosen. After the first step of priming, the finishes can be applied to walls of a new building or to older walls, he notes.

Increasing Number

The customer base is currently in New Jersey and the tri-state area, including the east coast, he says, adding that he is getting an increasing number of clients nationwide and even worldwide via the internet.

The price range typically includes finishes $2 to $15per square foot. “You can have finishes for walls and ceilings of a room for under $1,000, he says.

Mr. Ramondini is very enthusiastic about the future of these unique finishes in homes in the U.S., and he plans to have exhibits and presentations, displaying their variety and combination of style. “We will have an Expo at the Javits Center in Manhattan in October, and we also plan to have several demos in the Princeton area.

“I want people to know they can have a decorative alternative now for their walls and ceilings. Something with imagination and magic that will set your decor apart.”

(609) 751-8934; email: r.a@arbuildingtechnologies.com. Website: www.arbuildingtechnologies.com.


November 26, 2014
“Susan and I started this place so people can come in either to buy something or just look at nice things. We want them to walk in and feel welcome, and think ‘I really feel good here.’ And we really feel good here ourselves!” Scott Mulhern (left) and his wife Susan are owners of Marvelous Matter in Hopewell.

“Susan and I started this place so people can come in either to buy something or just look at nice things. We want them to walk in and feel welcome, and think ‘I really feel good here.’ And we really feel good here ourselves!” Scott Mulhern (left) and his wife Susan are owners of Marvelous Matter in Hopewell.

“You don’t know you love it until you see it!” said a customer recently upon entering Marvelous Matter, the charming new shop at 33 West Broad Street in Hopewell. Then, she added, “And what you see here is all eye candy! Every time you turn around something else catches your attention.”

Indeed, creativity, imagination, and innovation are on display at this special shop. Owners Susan and Scott Mulhern have presented an intriguingly eclectic display of antiques and collectibles, including furniture, glassware, jewelry, artwork, toys, and general miscellany.

“We like to think we offer beautiful things that were beautifully made, and that are presented in a beautiful setting. That is the focus of the shop,” observe the Mulherns.

Formerly located in The Tomato Factory, the store opened the doors to its new home in July. “We wanted a larger space, and this was available,” says Ms. Mulhern, who is a painter and potter, with a masters degree in ceramics. “I had grown up with antiques. My grandmother was a collector, and I collected as an adult. I had many items, and when we opened the shop in The Tomato Factory, that gave me permission to shop!”

Visual Perspective

Ms. Mulhern comes by her visual perspective naturally, she explains. “I got my good eye from my mother, who had a degree in fashion design. She knew quality and construction. Growing up, I learned about good quality.”

Gathering the collection over the years has been both exciting and satisfying for both of the owners. Before opening the store, Mr. Mulhern was engaged in a series of professions in which he was often exposed to a variety of intriguing collectibles. An actor, yoga instructor, and award-winning wallpaper hanger, he had many opportunities to view items of interest. Now he travels the east coast in search of new additions for the shop.

He also finds time to do I Ching Chinese Interpretive Life readings, and he is a published author of prose and Haiku poetry.

“We specialize in everything at the shop,” points out Mr. Mulhern, “and basically, we buy things we like. The idea is if we like it, maybe the customers will like it too. We also try to listen to what people are looking for. For example, someone wanted model boats, especially sailboats that were well-made and crafted. Someone else came in looking for a window settee, and other customers wanted a certain kind of lamp or game table or other items. They’ll all come in with something in mind, and then they’ll see things they didn’t expect to find. And then they can come upon that really singular item.”

Tramp Art

Mr. Mulhern adds that items are acquired from many sources, including church thrift shops, estate sales, auctions, etc. The Mulherns also accept items on consignment. Customers may send a photo via email, or bring in the item. The pricing arrangement is 60 percent for the customer, 40 percent for the store.

And everything seems to be popular. Tramp art, kitchen glass, carnival glass, and jewelry are all in demand, as is the furniture selection.

“There is a trend toward mid-century furniture now, and people always want antique furniture,” says Ms. Mulhern. “They like old things because so often, they are made better. We tend to admire things that stand the test of time, and there is an artistry to these items and a history. Who had them before? Where did the people live? What did they do? These pieces all have a story.”

“There’s nothing like authenticity,” points out Mr. Mulhern, “and then the history of the piece will continue with the new owner.”

The furniture selection includes several Eastlake items (an American style of furniture especially popular from 1870 to 1890). A wonderful ladies’ upholstered chair, made especially for a woman’s configuration, and noted for being extremely comfortable, is a highlight.

Another Eastlake piece is a maple roll-top desk dating to 1870, which is accented with burled elm wood. A handsome oak chest dates to the late 1800s, and also available are a mahogany high boy, a credenza, and a versatile game table, which folds against the wall when not in use.

Sense of Fun

In one of the store’s windows, a charming display features chairs arranged in descending order according to size, including two small doll chairs. Assorted baskets adorn the chairs, and on one a little doll perches engagingly.

“The idea is always to bring in the child to the adult. Add a sense of fun and whimsy,” explains Ms. Mulhern. ‘For example, we’ll have a very sophisticated item and put a little doll or toy next to it. This is unexpected and creates interest.”

Another window display features a large tomb rubbing on canvas of a knight in full regalia overlooking a pair of Windsor chairs. The window displays are changed frequently, point out the Mulherns. Customers will always find an inviting presentation of a new selection.

Boxes, baskets, and bowls are very popular at the shop, and some of these represent Tramp Art, which originated in in the late 1800s, says Ms. Mulhern. “It started in Europe, especially France, Germany, and Holland, and then came to the U.S., and continued into the 1930s. It was made by unschooled artists, who used boxes and baskets, often cigar boxes. It has a textured or chipped effect and some are also painted. It was done by people who rode the trains, rode the rails.”

Another area very popular with collectors is carnival glass. “This is hand-blown and then pressed, and was originally given away at carnivals,” she notes. “It dates from the early 1900s, and can include dishes, bowls, glasses, etc., and it is often iridescent.

“Kitchen glass also originated in the early 1900s, and is another favorite item. It is very durable, and will outlast anything made in China today.”

The presentation of items in the store is one of the delights of visiting Marvelous Matter. Surprises are everywhere. A 1920s wooden playing card holder reverses to a cribbage board, and sitting next to it is a Thai Buddha. In the corner, a king-size wooden toy soldier in bright red painted jacket stands watch, and nearby are three hollow copper balls in assorted sizes, which make a perfect garden ornament. On top of a shelf is a baby cradle, also a vintage washtub, and across the aisle is a very special hand-painted Tibetan Thangka. On another wall, a beautiful 1920s German tapestry is displayed, and a large wooden screen can serve as both a decorative and functional piece.

Whether customers are looking for picture frames, paper weights, antique sterling silver scissors, or carpets, they will find all of these and so much more, and with prices everywhere from $10 up to $1000s.

“There is so much to know about a specific area, and I get so interested in groups of things that I research everything about them,” reports Ms. Mulhern. “I just love this. I like to look at beautiful things and be around them. And I love accumulating the collection. It’s the thrill of the hunt and the surprises when you come across something you never expected to find.”

Adds Mr. Mulhern: “We have done so many things in our lives, and we thought how can we present the beautiful things we’ve seen, known, and experienced, and put them in this store so that it satisfies us and everyone who comes into the shop.”

Marvelous Matter is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Friday 11 to 8, Sunday 11:30 to 5. (609) 466-1972. Email: marvelousmatter@yahoo.com.